According to the histories of the twelve tribes of Israel,
Joachim was a very wealthy man. He brought his offerings twofold
to the Lord, saying to himself, “This from my abundance will be
for all the people, and this which I owe as a sin offering will
be for the Lord God as a propitiation for me.”
Now the great day of the Lord drew near, and the children of
Israel brought their offerings. Reuben stood up and said “It is
not permissible for you to bring your offerings first, for you
did not produce offspring in Israel.”
Deeply ashamed, Joachim left the city. In the desert he pitched
a tent, saying, “I shall fast and do penance until the Lord
deems me worthy.” He went into the desert and fasted for 40 days
and nights. Anna wept to see her husband go.
All alone, she went into the garden and sat down beneath the
laurel tree. Looking toward the heavens, she saw a nest of
sparrows in the tree. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes. How she
longed to have a child of her own. Anna entreated the Lord,
saying” Woe is me! To what am I likened? I am not likened to
this earth, for even the earth brings forth her fruit in its
season and blesses you, O Lord.”
an angel of the Lord appeared, saying “Anna, the Lord
God heard your prayer, and you will conceive and give
birth, and your offspring shall be spoken of in the
whole inhabited world.” Anna said, “As the Lord my God
lives, if I give birth, whether male or female, I will
present it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall be
a ministering servant to him all the days of its life.”:
And behold two angels came saying to her “Behold your
husband Joachim is coming with his flocks.” Anna ran and throw
her arms around his neck saying “Now I know that the Lord God
has blessed me very greatly, for behold the widow is no longer a
widow, and she who was barren has conceived.”
Anna gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, in gratitude to the
Lord, Joachim vowed that once the child turned three years old,
she would be sent to the Temple to be educated.
When she was six months old her mother stood her on the ground
to see if she could stand. Walking seven steps, she came to her
mother’s bosom. Anna held the baby to her and said, “As the Lord
is my God, and He has sent me a miraculous child.” Anna then
caught her up, saying “as the Lord my God lives, you shall not
walk on this earth again until I bring you to the Temple of the
Lord”. Then she made a sanctuary in her bedroom and prohibited
everything common and unclean from passing through it.
When the child was three years old, Joachim said, “let us call
the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews and let each one take a
torch and let them be burning in order that the child not turn
back and her heart be misled out of the Temple of the Lord”.
Thus they did, until they had gone up into the Temple.
The priest received her, and kissing her he blessed her and
said, “The Lord God has magnified your name in all generations,
in you at the end of todays will the Lord God manifest his
deliverance to the children of Israel”. He set her on the third
step of the alter, and the Lord God gave grace to her, and she
danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. At
last it was time for Mary to climb the steps to the Temple. A
halo of light encircled the blessed child and filled with joy,
she began to dance. The child’s bright spirit could not be
contained anymore than the sun can be kept from rising. Her
parents returned marvelling and giving praise and glorifying the
Lord God that the child did not turn back.
One day Zaccharia, the chief priest overseeing Mary’s education
was discussing the scriptures with a small group of holy men.
The child sat beside him, for already she was a great favourite
with these revered elders. “The Lord made us to serve Him,”
“And to glory in His kindness,” said Mary softly. Startled, the
old priest looked at her. “The little one is fearless and yet
all gentleness,” he told himself as the others exchanged smiles.
“The Lord can be merciful. That is true Mary,” he replied. “You
are wise, for one so young.”
“Is it wisdom, good father, to see what is all around us?” asked
the child. “The Lord must love us very much to have given us
this earthly paradise to look after.”
When her chores were done, in the remaining hours of each day
she went out alone just beyond the gates of the Temple. There
she would distribute food and clothing to the poor and the
elderly who came hoping for charity. In time the other girls
followed her example, and the Temple became known far and wide
for its generosity.
One day, as she bathed the brow of a young girl so sick with
fever that she was not expected to survive the night. Mary heard
angelic singing. She looked to her patient, wondering if the
girl had heard it too. No, her friend was sleeping peacefully
for the first time in days. Touching the girl’s forehead, Mary
realised that the fever had passed. Surely it was a miracle –
the girl would recover, just as Mary prayed she would. “Mary,” a
voice suddenly said. “The Lord has seen fit to bring you into
this world without the stain of sin. And you use His good favor
to help others. By doing so you honour Him greatly.”
When Mary turned fourteen, Zaccharia told her, “It is customary
for all young maidens at your age to marry.” That night an angel
appeared to the old priest in a dream and said, “Do not worry,
Zaccharia. Tomorrow have each suitor bring with him a staff. The
Holy Spirit will give a sign as to who shall be Mary’s husband.”
day the suitors crowded into the Temple, each holding a
staff in his hand. Kneeling, they prayed for a sign. All
at once a lily was seen to bloom from the staff held by
the widower Joseph, a builder and carpenter. And then a
snow white dove alighted upon the staff before flying
off. “How can it be that the Lord has chosen
"Me?” Joseph said, astonished “I have been
widowed for some time and have sons nearly as old as this tender
young girl.” But Zaccharia shook his head “The Lord has given a
sign, Joseph.” And turning to Mary the priest asked “Mary what
is your wish?” Moved by the events and Joseph’s humble words,
Mary extended her hand to Joseph, saying, “I accept.”
That day the marriage contract was signed, and in twelve months
the wedding ceremony would be celebrated. In the meantime, Mary
returned to her parents while Joseph departed for a distant town
where he was about to begin work on the building of a Temple.
The commission was a great honour, but it would separate the
couple for nearly a year.
At day break one spring morning, Mary went to draw water from
the well before her parents awakened. All at once she heard a
voice. “Hail Mary,” it said. “The Lord is with you. Holy is your
name.” And the angel stood before her. “Mary, do not be afraid,
“he said. “I am the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger. He has sent
me to tell you that He wishes you to bear a son.”
“But how can such a thing be possible? I am not yet wed,” said
“The Holy Spirit will pass through you as a ray of sunlight
passes through a drop of water, and so the child will be called
the Son of God.” Mary shook her head in wonder.
“Your kinswoman Elizabeth has in her old age conceived a son,
and she, like your own mother was once called barren,” the angel
continued. “But now, thanks to the Lord, Elizabeth is in her
sixth month. Indeed, only your consent is needed for such a
miracle to be possible, for nothing is impossible for God.”
As she listened, Mary was filled with courage. She replied,
“Then I give my consent.”
Bowing before her, the angel Gabriel Kissed the hem of Mary’s
robe and then vanished.
Alone, Mary wondered what kind of destiny she had carved for
herself. How was she to explain this to her parents? And to
The next morning Anna surprised Mary with news. “I have just
received a letter from our cousin Elizabeth. The Lord has
blessed her, for at last she has conceived a child. It is truly
a miracle!” The following day they left for Elizabeth’s home to
help her as she awaited the birth of the baby. Now, as soon as
Elizabeth heard Mary at the door, she called out, “Hail Mary.
Mother of God!” and at the same moment, the infant Elizabeth
carried leapt for joy within her. Rushing to embrace them both,
Elizabeth said to Anna, “Of all the women, Mary is the most
blessed and blessed is the infant she carries.”
When Mary was alone with her mother, she tried to explain. Anna
took her daughter into her arms. “My dearest child, I believe
you,” said Anna. “But what of Joseph? Will he trust in you as
When Joseph was told, he blamed himself, for he felt he had
failed to protect her, crying “who is he who has deceived me?
Who did this evil thing in my house and defiled her?”. Then Mary
wept and said that she was pure. To spare Mary any public shame,
it was decided that she was to go into seclusion, and that the
engagement would be broken. But that very night an angel
appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph do not be afraid
to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived her child through
the grace of the Holy Spirit. It will be a son, and you must
name him Jesus, for he will be the salvation of the world.”
On the way to Bethlehem where they were going to be ‘enrolled’,
Mary came down from her donkey, knowing that her time had come.
Joseph took her into a cave and while the heavens stood still
and the birds of heaven rested, while time itself throughout
nature and humanity came to a stop, there, Mary gave birth to
Jesus. A great light appeared in the cave as the baby was born.
For a moment he was pure light, then as the light faded a child
Although Mary is not described in any detail she is referred to
as an innocent child – her situation is compelling and wondrous.
The very delicate treatment of the figure of Mary has
contributed to her warm and mysterious presence in later
Early manuscripts of the Gospel of James exist in Greek, Syriac,
Ethiopic and Georgian, reaffirming the significance of the role
of Mary in the divine play.
The reoccurring themes of purity, chastity, love and compassion
dominate the life of Mary, indeed she is the embodiment of these
qualities. The qualities of a Mother. But greater than any
Mother born of this earth. She is the perfect example of how the
feminine power of God manifests itself as a “Mother”, just as
Christ is the perfect example of the power of God when embodied
as a “son”.
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Mary and the
comprehensive stories about the early childhood of Mary are
attributed to the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of James. This
has been documented by historians as being written prior to the
year 200 AD.
In a document called God the Father of Mercy there is an entire
chapter devoted to Mary, the Holy Trinity’s Sign of Mercy. Mary
is the object of God’s mercy. This document states:
“Mary becomes the prophet of God’s mercy, as well as it’s icon.
She, more than anyone else knows the mystery of mercy that
reaches its climax on Calvary. The Virgin who became the Mother
of Jesus at Christmas, enabling God’s mercy to become
The qualities of mercy, compassion, comforting and counselling
have long since been seen as feminine qualities, all of which
Mary emanated. They are also the qualities of the future
incarnation promised by Christ, “But the Comforter, which is the
Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach
you all things” (John 14:26) Could it be that he was telling
then of the age of the Mother, when the feminine power of God
would grace this earth.
If God Almighty deemed Her pure
enough to bear his Son, then it could be suggested that She has
a special place in the Holy Trinity. We talk much of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Ghost. We have this trinity in the birth of
Christ – God the Father, Christ the Son and Mary the Mother.
This begs the question: “Is the Holy Ghost a feminine power, a
mothering power that came on this earth to bear the Son of God
and teach mankind of the mercy and love of God?”.
According to tradition Mary has been called upon as the Mother
of Mercy since the 3rd century.
Churches built in honour of the Virgin Mary have been well
documented; for example the Emperor Justinian built a splendid
church dedicated to Mary in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was
dedicated on November 21, 543AD but was destroyed by the
Persians within a century. Mary was also held in the highest
regard by early church Fathers praising her – “ She was planted
in the House of God, nourished by the Holy Spirit and kept her
body and soul spotless to receive God in her bosom. He Who is
all-holy rests among the holy.”
James describes the day Mary is presented to the temple by her
parents Anna and Joachim. “When the day arrived, the undefiled
daughters of the Hebrews were invited to accompany Mary with
their lamps burning to the Temple. There the priest received
her, blessed her and kissed her in welcome”.
He proclaimed, “The Lord has magnified thy name in all
generations. In thee, the Lord will manifest His redemption to
the sons of Israel.” Mary was placed on the third step of the
Temple and there danced with joy and all the house of Israel
loved her. Without looking back, Mary climbed the stairs of the
temple. It was there that she was nurtured and her parents
returned glorifying the Almighty. This shows that even in her
childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. It is from this
very account that arose the feast of Mary’s Presentation.
In both the Eastern and Western churches, feast days in honour
of the events of Mary’s life came into existence between the 4th
and 7th centuries. They celebrate her miraculous conception and
her birth, narrated in the apocryphal “Infancy Gospel” of James
(September 8); the Annunciation (March 25); her purification in
the Temple (February 2); and her death (called the Dormition in
the Eastern church) and bodily assumption into heaven
We know that in the Byzantine Church this feast is considered
one of the twelve great feasts of the liturgical year, called
the Dodecaorton. Scholars believe that Mary’s Presentation in
the Temple is considered a major feast for the Eastern churches
celebrating the same values that the Western church celebrates
in the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Gospels give only a fragmentary account of Mary’s life,
mentioning her chiefly in connection with the beginning and the
end of Jesus’ life. Matthew speaks of Mary as Joseph’s wife, who
was “with child of the Holy Spirit” before they “came together”
as husband and wife (Matthew 1:18). After the birth of Jesus,
she was present at the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:11), fled
with Joseph to Egypt (Matthew 2:14), and returned to Nazareth
(Matthew 2:23). Mark simply refers to Jesus as the son of Mary
The Gospel of John contains no infancy narrative, nor does it
mention Mary’s name; she is referred to as “the mother of Jesus”
(John 2:1-5; 19:25-27). According to John, she was present at
the first of Jesus’ miracles at the marriage at Cana in Galilee,
although her name is not used (John 2:1); the attempt to see
Jesus while he was teaching (Mark 3:31); and the station at the
cross, where, apparently widowed, she was entrusted to the
disciple John (John 19:26). Even if one takes these scenes as
literal historical accounts, they do not add up to an integrated
portrait of Mary.
of Luke and the Acts however give us the essential
framework for the beginning of an authentic study of
Mary. The first mention of Mary is in the story of the
Annunciation, which reports that she was living in
Nazareth and was betrothed to Joseph (Luke 1:26); the
last mention of her (Acts 1:14) includes her in the
company of those who devoted themselves to prayer after
the ascension of Jesus into heaven. She appears in the
following incidents in the Gospels: the Annunciation;
the visit with Elizabeth, her kinswoman and the mother
of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus (Luke 1:39);
the birth of Jesus and the presentation of him in the
Temple (Luke 2:1); the Passover visit to Jerusalem when
Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41).
She continued to be at all the key events in his life,
even at his death and when Jesus’ promise of his Spirit was
given at Pentecost There is no one person who ever had such a
close relationship with Jesus in all of these stages of his
life. Her role, quietly in the background gave support and
encouragement to the work of Jesus.
Luke’s narrative of the nativity includes the angel Gabriel’s
announcement to Mary foretelling the birth of Jesus (Luke
1:26-38) and her visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth, mother of
John the Baptist
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1:26-38: The Annunciation Account
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a
town in Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the
house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The
Lord is with you.”
29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what
sort of greeting this might be.
30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have
found favor with God.
31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and
you will name him Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most
High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his
kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a
35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore,
the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also
conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who is said
to be barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it
be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from
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2:1-7: The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all
the world should be registered.
2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius
was governor of Syria.
3 All went to their own towns to be registered.
4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to
Judaea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was
descended from the house and family of David.
5 He went to be registered with Mary to whom he was engaged and
who was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in
bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no
place for him in the inn.
This is a very well known account, but what of the conception
and birth of Mary? Her entry into this world is no less
miraculous and her childhood equally reflects the power and
presence of the divine all pervading power of God Almighty.
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Assumption Of Mary
traditions of the Orthodox and Catholic Church, the Blessed
Virgin Mary having completed the course of her earthly life, was
assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. This means that Mary
was transported into Heaven with her body and soul united. The
feast day recognizing Mary's passage into Heaven is celebrated
as The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
its recent definition as dogma, the story of the
assumption dates back to the early centuries of the
church. The earliest narrative is the so-called Liber
Requiei Mariae (The Book of Mary's Repose), a
narrative which survives intact only in an Ethiopic
translation Probably composed by the fourth century,
this early Christian apocryphal narrative may be as
early as the third century. Also quite early are the
very different traditions of the "Six Books" Dormition
narratives. The earliest versions of this apocryphon are
preserved by several Syriac manuscripts of the fifth and
sixth centuries, although the text itself probably
belongs to the fourth century. This mystery is
celebrated on August 15.
apocrypha based on these earlier texts include the De
Obitu S. Dominae, attributed to St. John, a work
probably from around the turn of the sixth century that
is a summary of the "Six Books" narrative. The story
also appears in De Transitu Virginis, a late
fifth-century work ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis that
presents a theologically redacted summary of the
traditions in the Liber Requiei Mariae. An
Armenian letter attributed to Dionysus the Areopagite
also mentions the event, although this is a much later
work, written sometime after the sixth century. Other
saints also describe it, notably St. Gregory of Tours,
St. John Damascene, and St. Modestus of Jerusalem.
In some versions
of the story the event is said to have taken place in Ephesus,
in House of the Virgin Mary, although this is a much more recent
and localized tradition. The earliest traditions all locate the
end of Mary's life in Jerusalem . By the seventh century a
variation emerged, according to which one of the apostles, often
identified as St. Thomas, was not present at the death of Mary,
but his late arrival precipitates a reopening of Mary's tomb,
which is found to be empty except for her grave clothes. In a
later tradition, Mary drops her girdle down to the apostle from
heaven as testament to the event This incident is depicted in
many later paintings of the Assumption. The story of the
Assumption was generally accepted as fact in medieval
Christianity, as a corollary to the theological assertion of
Mary's Immaculate Conception. Theological debate about the
assumption continued until 1950 when it was defined as doctrine.
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Coronation of Mary
as Queen of the Heavens by her son, Jesus Christ, during the
Assumption of Mary, is a tradition known since the 12th century.
Queen of Heaven
(Latin Regina Cæli) is one of a number of titles used
particularly for Mary, the mother of Jesus. The title is with
reference to the end of her earthly life when Mary was
bodily assumed into heaven. There she is honoured as Queen, for
the sake of her Son.
Mary enters heaven, the entire court of heaven
greets with joy this masterpiece of God's creation.
is crowned by her divine Son as Queen of heaven and
than we can ever know the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
overflow with joy at this reunion.
in heaven will we know the great majesty of that
coronation, and the joy it gave to the angels and
the angels, who by nature are greater than humans,
hail Mary as their Queen.
shares so fully in the glory of Christ because she
shared so fully in his suffering.
her throne, Our Mother dispenses love and peace to
angels and saints longed for the coming of her whose
heel crushes the head of the serpent.
pleads our cause as a most powerful Queen and a most
merciful and loving Mother.
great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with
the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a
crown of twelve stars
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Our Mother Mary
According to apocryphal writings, Mary spent her childhood from
age 3 – 12 in the temple. The medieval representation of this
shows Mary wearing a sash whose both ends are knotted in such a
way that they are hanging loose and low. The sash is a typical
attribute of the virgin in the temple and symbolises Mary’s
chastity and virginal and exclusive dedication to God later on.
The sash is also attributed to the Immaculate.
To have knots in one’s garment keeps danger at bay. Knotting and
untying are faculties of the divine (master of human destiny)
and also of Christ (he freed himself from all earthly
“attachments” and bonds). There are customs according to which
the robes of the fiancés are knotted together to suggest a
common destiny. This occurs in many eastern traditions where the
bride and groom literally “tie the knot” during the marriage
ceremony. His scarf is tied to the end or her gown (or sari).
However, the most significant meaning of the sash is that of
both virginity and motherhood combined, as a consequence of God
himself tying and untying the knot of Mary’s dedication of
herself to Him. Again the importance of chastity and purity is
It is quite evident that the Gospels of Luke and James give us
good grounding for the beginnings of an in depth study of Mary
and her true identity.
As early as the 2nd century, Christians venerated Mary by
calling her Mother of God. During the controversies of the 4th
century concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus, the
Greek title Theotókos (Mother of God) came to be used for Mary
in devotional and theological writing. This suggests the divine
nature of Mary and her true place within the Holy Trinity.
Closely related to the title Mother of God is the title Virgin
Mary, affirming the virginal conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35).
God, not Joseph, was the true father of Jesus. In the Marian
devotion that developed in the East in the 4th century, Mary was
venerated not only in the conception but also in the birth of
Jesus. This conviction was expressed clearly in the 4th century,
baptismal creeds of Cyprus, Syria, Palestine, and Armenia. The
title used was Aieiparthenos (ever-virgin), and by the middle of
the 7th century the understanding of the title came to include
the conviction that Mary remained a virgin for the whole of her
life. This notion reinforces the idea that Mary was not touched
by this world, indeed her purity of spirit, body and mind
signaled her attachment to the realms of the Gods. The passages
in the New Testament referring to the brothers of Jesus (for
instance, Mark 6:3, which also mentions sisters; see 1
Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19) have been accordingly explained
as references to relatives of Jesus or to children of Joseph by
a previous marriage.
In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, various Christian writers began to
express the belief that, because of her intimate union with God
through the Holy Spirit in the conception of Jesus, Mary was
completely free from any taint of sin. In 680AD a Roman Council
spoke of her as the “blessed, immaculate ever-virgin.” This can
be taken one step further it can be suggested that Mary
completed the “Holy Trinity” not that she was touched by the
Holy Spirit, but that she was the Holy Spirit. Who else could
have born the Son of God on earth? Thus completing the Holy
Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Mother.
During the late Middle Ages (13th century to 15th century),
devotion to Mary grew dramatically. Mary came to be depicted as
the one who interceded for sinners. As the fear of death and the
Last Judgment intensified following the Black Plague in the 14th
century, Mary was increasingly venerated in popular piety as
mediator of the mercy of Christ. Her prayers and pleas were seen
as the agency that tempered the stern justice of Christ. Indeed
Christ had talked of the Comforter, Councillor and Redeemer who
would come at the time of the Last Judgment. People turned to
Mary for God’s compassion, recognising these as feminine
qualities, the qualities of a Mother.