Rev. Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monk from St. Shenouda Monastery in Australia. He completed his Master of Arts in Ancient History at Macquarie University and is currently working to earn his Doctor of Philosophy on the subject of the Arrow Prayer. In the monastery, Father Anthony collaborates with many young people to produce Orthodox-inspired books and music.
St. Mary, the mother of God the, the pure virgin, all holy virgin, and the pride of our race are all names we give the Theotokos to describe her purity and love for God. When we hear these titles, we expect them to come from someone who grew up in an ideal environment. We may envision perfect parenting, a rich home, good education, etc. Yet we know that this is contrary to the truth.
While St. Mary had exemplary parents who are saints in the Church, she had lived away from her parents from the time she was 3 years old. Before her birth her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna, did not have children. And for a long time, they promised that they would offer their child to the service of the temple if they were blessed to conceive. Her parents were elderly by the time she reached her early teens.
At the temple St. Mary would not have lived the lavish life in a comfortable home. She would have been expected to help out in the day-to-day activities of the temple, such as sewing priests’ vestments and washing out bloodstains from the daily offerings at the temple. At the age of 14, she was betrothed (engaged) to an elderly man who would take care of her. And she endured countless hardships after the birth of Christ until his death.
Her story is not exactly what someone today would call an “ideal” lifestyle for a teenager. Yet in spite of all these extreme circumstances that surrounded St. Mary, she lived a most holy life. The external conditions were not an excuse for her to rebel against God or blame Him for her circumstances.
In the absence of her parents, she was sure that God was her loving Father who would never get old and never die. Living in the temple was the most fulfilling feeling for her. She did not feel like she was missing out on the outside world because God fulfilled all her desires and emotions.
Even when unexpected events and changes in her life suddenly came up—from living in the temple to living with an old man, from living with an old man to taking care of a baby—she never saw these changes as distractions from her relationship with God.
St. Mary gives us a great example that the outside circumstances do not have to stand in the way of achieving our spiritual goals. They can actually exist to strengthen our relationship with God if we let them.
To hear an amazing collection of contemporary Orthodox music about St. Mary entitled Mother of God, visit www.asaphtunes.com/product/mother-of-god-album/.
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