8 day Lent in The Month of September

How greatly appealing the discourse about the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary is! Our Holy Church fathers had had extensive scrutinizing studies of her biography; inspired ecclesiastical poets wrote beautiful poems in glorification of her; celebrated artists sculpted the most beautiful statues of her and skillful painters filled the world with her splendid portraits. The Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of the most magnificent Cathedrals the faithful have erected for her worldwide.

The Virgin Mary’s Feasts

Ever since its existence our Syrian Orthodox Church has incessantly extolled the Virgin Mary’s virtues and canonized her as a patron saint of the church, repeating her Holy name in church prayers day and night. Our church has set commemorative days for the Virgin Mary to be celebrated all the year round.

It was a common practice in the church to celebrate commemorations of saints and martyrs after their departure to heavenly abodes following the termination of their spiritual struggle on earth. The Holy Virgin Mary and St. John, however, were excepted.

The Syrian Orthodox Church usually celebrates the nativity of the Virgin Mary on Sept.8. It used to celebrate the Feast of the Virgin Mary’s presentation in the temple, in addition to three others; the Feast of the Virgin Mary for the blessing of the crops, the Feast of the Virgin Mary of the sowing and the Feast of the Virgin Mary for blessing of the vineyards.

At the beginning of the Liturgical year the Syrian Orthodox Church observes the Sundays, usually known as the Sundays before the Nativity of Christ, which include Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the Sunday of the virgin Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, the Sunday of St. Joseph’s Revelation, on which Gabriel affirmed to Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary, the Virgin’s innocence and revealed the divine Mystery, that the conception was of the Holy Spirit.

The Genealogy of The Virgin Mary

The Holy Virgin Mary descended from the tribe of Judah. She is of the house of David and a relative of Elizabeth, the mother of John, the Baptist. In the Holy Gospel Elizabeth is called "the virgin’s cousin (L.1: 36). It is reported that Elizabeth is her aunt. Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John is a relative of the Virgin Mary as well (Mathew 27:56, 19:25). It is in the Holy Gospel that we read about the genealogy of Jesus Christ on the side of Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary (Mat. 1:16, Luke 3:23, Act 2:20, Rom 1:3). The Virgin and Joseph belong to one tribe. The Virgin Mary is the descendant of priests, kings and prophets. She is the daughter of David. For this reason the angel said unto her upon Annunciation of the divine conception: “Thou shalt conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son…. He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest …and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever”. (Luke 1-31-32).

Conception and Birth of Mary

It is noteworthy to mention that the conception of Mary took place according to the natural law for she was of a man (Joachim) and a woman (Hanna). Mary is the daughter of two barren persons just like Isaac, Samuel and John, the Baptist. She inherited, just like them, and like other people, the original sin of Adam and Eve, which is the sin of all humanity starting with Adam who represented his race when he committed sin so his descendents were charged with sin, which could not be obliterated from falling humanity except by the incarnation of the second hypothesis of the Holy Trinity. That’s why the Apostle Paul says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom.5: 12), and David said: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5.). Of all those who put on flesh, it was only Jesus Christ who was excepted from the legacy of this sin. “Who took everything we have except sin” and who became the propitiator for the sins of the whole world. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God”. (R.3: 23,24). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world”, so by one man it was obliterated (Rom.5: 12:15). Just like all other people, the Virgin Mary, who was, most probably, born in Nazareth, was not without sin.

8 day Lent in The Month of September

The 8 day lent observed in Malankara is associated with the birth of St. Mary. The practice originated at the ancient St. Mary's Church, Manarcaud, near Kottayam. The tradition of congregations fasting from the first of the month until the feast day of the patron saint of their church was common practice in the past. The fast in connection with St. Mary's Assumption (Shunoyo) from Aug 1-15 is a prescribed fast of the Church universally. It was at the St. Mary's Church at Manarcaud that the tradition of fasting prior to St. Mary's birth date in Malankara began. Due to the influence of this ancient church, other churches in Malankara also adopted this practice. It is by no means a prescribed fast of the Church.

However, the Church does celebrate the birth of St. Mary universally. In the calendars of the Church in the Middle-East and the diaspora, the date is Sep 7th in Malankara, for some reason, it is 8th. The fact that the Church celebrates St. Mary's birthday does not suggest even remotely that the Church accepts the Roman Catholic dogma of Immaculate Conception. We are merely celebrating her birth; we are not making any dogmatic statements regarding the nature of her birth. It is fashionable for critics to deride the now common Malankara Syriac Orthodox practice of fasting prior to St. Mary's birthday claiming that this is a Roman Catholic influence. There is no truth to this; the fast at Manarcaud is not a recent innovation. I hope that these false arguments do not dissuade anyone who wishes to set apart a few days for fasting and prayer. ....................................... +++ .......................................

NOTE :- I recently had a chance to read an Article on "The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church " Written by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. This Article indeed Enlightened me on my concept regarding St. Mary and her place in Orthdox Church . Further I hope that this Article will definitely help us in clearing all our doubts and Questions. For any help Please do visit the below mentioned linkhttp://syrianorthodoxchurch.org/library/essays/the-holy-virgin-mary-in-the-syrian-orthodox-church/