Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Love of Honor

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Whenever one tries to approach the Blessed Virgin Mary to understand the secrets behind her life, one's mind gets boggled and baffled by them. While many women and leaders of women's movements fight to obtain rights and honor, this simple poor girl appeared on the scene of events to become not only higher than those on earth, but also those in heaven. Concerning honor, St. Isaac the Syrian said, "whoever runs after honor, it runs away from him and whoever runs away from honor willfully, honor chases him and leads people to him." That is why God had honored and chosen this girl to become His Mother.

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from all fame and honor. Although she had many stories, news, and words about her dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that any human being yearns to know, yet, she chose to keep all these things to herself and pondered them in her heart. Had she uttered a word, all humanity would have surrounded her to record those things she knew about the Master Jesus Christ. However, she escaped all this glory and chose the life of silence and quietude.

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from all glory of praise and chose to live in the shadow of the events. She exemplified this attitude in her visit to Elizabeth and to serve her behind the scenes. When it was Elizabeth's due time, the Blessed Virgin Mary hurried quickly back to her house before people would gather in the house of Elizabeth and Zachariah and see her and praise her for having served the aged woman for three months.

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from the respect and privilege of defending herself and proving her innocence. When St. Joseph the righteous questioned her purity, she submitted herself and her modesty to God who vindicates the wronged. In addition, after the angel had revealed her secret to St. Joseph, she never chastised nor rebuked him for his distrust in her. In fact, she chose to experience being wronged like her Son, "although He was ill-treated, He opened not His mouth. He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before his shearers, so He opens not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7, LXX).

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from herself and her ego, living a life of submission and selflessness and let others choose for her how she would live her life. Her parents chose for her to live in the temple and the temple priests chose her spouse and patron. She did not even think or dream of becoming the Mother of God; but when God chose her, she immediately offered herself in complete obedience, confirming, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Her life of total submission extended to include her lack of knowledge of the place of her delivery, the flight to Egypt, living in Nazareth, or her future life companion with whom she was to spend the rest of her life after the crucifixion and death of her Son. In spite of all the uncertainty and hazards of the events in her life, she lived a life free of complaint, and was full of joy and simplicity of heart.

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from the glory of being the Mother of God and the honor entailed in this title. Consequently, she did not allow herself to be distinguished from the rest of the crowd; but more often than not, she lived like the rest of the Jewish people—and like them, she wanted to meet with the Christ as the evangelist recorded, "and a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, 'look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.'" (Mark 3:32).

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from the glory of becoming the mother of the Messiah, unlike the Old Testament women who sought marriage and motherhood in the hope of gaining the blessings of becoming the mother or grandmother of the Messiah. From her discourse with the angel, we learn that she was satisfied with offering herself as a bride to God—feeling undeserving that she was to become His mother. That is why God has honored her humility and raised her above all the women of the world by allowing her to become the Mother of the Creator—full of admiration and tribute.

The Blessed Virgin Mary ran away from the honor of being a wife and a mother for she had pledged her virginity at a time when pledging virginity was not common. So, while she sought neither, she became the Mother of God and the whole creation. She is indeed the Mother of us all.

While so many women these days desire the office of the priesthood, the Blessed Virgin Mary never sought it, but was greatly and submissively satiated with the deity order of assigning the priesthood to men. Thus, although she was the Mother of God, she never received any priesthood rank.

While so many women nowadays argue against the purification period for women (a practice that has its roots in the Old Testament) contending that such is against women's respect and dignity, we find the all pure, undefiled, Blessed Virgin Mary, who had given birth to her dear Son purely and without sin, respecting and fulfilling the Law of Moses. Forty days after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, she went into the temple and offered the sacrifice according to the Law.

Truly awesome and worthy of all honor is the Blessed Virgin Mary who had chosen to escape from all dignity and earthly glory. Thus, Almighty God counted her worthy to receive the heavenly glory and privilege. The Lord God looked from heaven and could not find anyone like her; so He sent His Son to be incarnated of her. The Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin Mary confirms that she did not steal for herself any honor, but the Lord did wonders with her making her honored and glorified by all nations—augmented and full of praise.

Many, many women received honor, respect, and admiration, but you O Mother of God exceeded them all, for you have become Mother to the Creator and the Word of the Father.

May the blessings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is enrobed with all tribute and admiration, be with us all, Amen.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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