The Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church

4 - Saturday Theotokia

Ragy Sharkawy
May 18, 2011

Contemplations on the Saturday Theotokia.

Introduction

As appointed servants of the Lord God and His holy altar, we continuously renew our commitment in learning the hymns, cherished by our Church, to praise Him, the Most High, and His blessed Saints. Several of these hymns are dedicated in honoring the blessed Virgin and Theotokos, St. Mary. Among them is the Saturday Theotokia.

The Saturday Theotokia is characterized with a wonderful and joyful melody, allowing us to lift up our hearts with the angels in heaven in praising the Lord God and honoring His Saints. This hymn is chanted during the Saturday Midnight Praise, the Vespers Praise, and in the Praise of Bright Saturday.

Verse 1

O chaste and undefiled,
Holy in everything,
Who brought God to us,
Carried in her arms.

“Blessed are you among women!” The Lord God Most High, found no heart similar to yours, O Saint Mary! Your purity and your holiness indeed surpassed any living being. You indeed are holy in everything and dedicated your life to the Lord and His service. It is only through you, O Virgin Mary, who is highly praised, that the Lord our God chose to be born from you. For you were chosen to be the Second Heaven, bearing the Heavenly Manna in your womb for nine months, until the “fullness of time,” when you gave birth to the Lord, King and Savior, Jesus Christ. You held Him in your blessed arms, protecting Him from those who sought to kill Him, so that He may live to grant us salvation.

Verse 2

The whole creation rejoiced with you,
Proclaiming and saying,
“Hail to you O full of grace,
The Lord is with you.”

O Mother God, your humbleness and humility surpasses one’s understanding, for you sanctified yourself as the “maidservant of the Lord.” You are called the Mother of God. Despite this, you did not boast, nor set any conditions to the birth of the Savior. Despite the pains of pregnancy, the birth in a manger, the tedious travel and escapes, you obeyed, and moreover rejoiced in serving the Lord God. The whole creation rejoiced with you, for through you the Lord and Savior was born, Who, through His own goodwill, took the form a servant to die on our behalf on the Wood of the Cross. Hail to you, O full of grace, the Lord is indeed with you!

Chorus

Hail to you O full of grace,
Hail to you who has found grace,
Hail to you who has given birth to Christ,
The Lord is with you.

We chant with one accord, and praise you O Mother of the True Light, for you are indeed full of grace through the descending of the Holy Spirit on you. You have found grace through your humility, purity, and love for God. The Father chose you among all the born women. Hail to you O Theotokos, for through you Christ the Lord is born for the salvation of the world.

Verse 3

We are elated by your greatness,
O prudent Virgin,
And send to you greetings,
With Gabriel the angel.

O Saintly Virgin, Mother of God, who was chosen among women to bear the Son of God Most High, we ask you to intercede to the Lord God, for we have found comfort and joy in you. You are blessed among woman, and highly praised on earth… how much more in heaven O full of grace, the chosen vessel of the Lord? As Gabriel greeted you, we greet you also, and plead that you may intercede for our weak selves before your Son, that He may have mercy upon us, and forgive us our many sins.

Verse 4

For through your fruit,
Salvation came to our race,
And God has reconciled with us once again,
Through His goodness.

The Lord God chose your pure body to dwell in. He is the fruit of your womb, and He has granted us salvation. He has granted us freedom from the bondage of sin. Through you, Christ the Lord was born, to carry the Cross on our behalf. Through you He has come to die for us, the sinners, and to take our sins up on the Cross, and bear the pains of torture. Despite these pains, the Father rejoiced, for through Christ, God was reconciled with Man. This was seen as the veil of the altar split from top to bottom, a symbol that God the Father in Heaven has o?nce again reconciled with us, His Creation, in the world.

Verse 5

Like a bride without blemish,
The Holy Spirit came upon you,
And the power of the Most High,
Overshadowed you O Mary.

Indeed you are a bride without blemish. Not only did He choose you for the purity of your body, but moreover the purity of your heart. Your humble heart has found favor in the sight of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit chose you among women to descend upon you to bear the Logos, the Word of the Father, the Son of God. Through this power of the Most High, you bore for the world the Son of the Most High. Through the power of the Most High, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, which is “Behold, the virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). Despite this honor, you kept your heart in its purity and with the Lord, and likewise, the Lord out of His love for you, sealed your virginity that your body may also be pure. O Mother of the True Light, the Maidservant of the Lord, we ask you to teach us the true meaning of humility.

Verse 6

For you have given birth,
To the True Word,
The Son of the Ever-existing Father,
Who came and redeemed us from our sins.

We believe and confess to the whole world that the Lord Jesus Christ, “came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man” (The Orthodox Creed). Rejoice, O Theotokos, for the fruit of your womb is indeed the Son of God, who saved the world from the wages of sin. We magnify you, O Mother of the True Light, the Mother of the Savior!

Verse 7-8

You are the offspring, and
Root of David, who was given
Birth for us, according to the flesh,
Our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Only-Begotten of the Father,
Before all ages, emptied Himself and took
The form of a servant, from you for
Our salvation.

The prophecies were fulfilled, and behold the Virgin Mary, a descendent from the house of King David the Psalmist, gave birth to the Lord and Savior, through the descending of the Holy Spirit, for our salvation. Truly, O Saint Mary, you were highly favored in the eyes of the Lord, and you are truly admired and praised among Christians around the world. Hail to you, O beautiful dove; hail to you, O humble and pure Mother. Hail to you, our intercessor before the Lord God, Who chose by His own goodwill to leave His glory and heavenly Throne, to take the form of man, the limited beings that we are, and to take the form of a servant so that He may take the sins of the world upon Himself and die on behalf of all Humanity. Rejoice, O Theotokos, for your Son has granted us salvation.

Verse 9-11

The Tabernacle, which is called,
The Holy of Holies,
Which contains the Ark,
Overlaid roundabout with gold.

Wherein are the Tablets,
Of the Covenant,
And the golden pot,
Wherein the Manna was hidden.

This is a symbol of the Son of God
Who came and dwelt in Mary
The undefiled Virgin
And was incarnate from her.

How awesome are the ways of the Lord! Since the Fall of Man, He proclaimed to the world the coming of the Messiah. Many prophets were sent in the Name of the Lord, to proclaim the miraculous birth of Christ from the blessed Virgin for the salvation of the world. Now that Salvation has been granted, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, the Lord revealed the symbolism behind the order of the Tabernacle. We recall the words of Christ “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (Jn. 16:12). Indeed, we could never understand the meaning of these symbols without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

You, Saint Mary, are compared to the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. In the same manner that “the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34), likewise, the glory of God filled your body, and you became a Second Heaven on earth. You are also likened to the Ark, overlaid roundabout with gold, as King David spoke saying: “The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes” (Ps. 45:13). The tablets of the Covenant are the words of God, and Christ Himself is the Word, God Incarnate. Therefore, it is befitting that you are likened to the Ark of Covenant.

As well, Holy Theotokos, you are likened to the Pot of Manna. For Christ taught us, saying, “I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn. 6:48, 51). In the same manner that the manna was kept in the pot inside the Ark as a testimony to the children of Israel, likewise, Christ the Savior, the Bread of Life, came down, and dwelt in your body for nine months.

Verse 12

She gave birth to Him to the world
In unity without separation
For He is the King of Glory
Who came and saved us.

“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” (Lk. 1:35). Through the Divine Power of the all Holy Trinity, the Son of God, the Second Hypostasis was born from you, O blessed Virgin. In no time or place did the unity of the Trinity separate. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, amen. Although beyond human understanding, it is not hard to believe. St. John explains in his gospel saying “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). Nevertheless, as Saint Paul teaches, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Through you, Saint Mary, the Lord, King of Glory and Lords of Lords, came to the world, and saved humanity from the bondage of sin and death.

Verse 13

Paradise rejoiced,
At the coming of the Lamb
The Word, the Son of the Ever-existing Father
Who came and redeemed us from our sins.

The Heavens rejoiced at the coming of the Son to world, for through the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation would be granted to the world, and God would reconcile with Man once more. The Word, the Son of the Eternal Father, has come to redeem the sins of Man. The angels rejoiced at the birth of Christ, chanting and praising with joy: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Lk. 2:14). We also rejoice with the heavens at the coming of the Savior and declare with David the Psalmist saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

Verse 14-15

You are called the Mother of God,
The True King,
And after He was born from you,
Miraculously you remained a Virgin.

Emmanuel Whom you have born,
Has kept you
Without corruption,
And your virginity remained sealed.

It is a miracle beyond human understanding; “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37). The Lord Christ was born from you without the seed of man. Yet after your birth, your virginity is still sealed. Emmanuel our Lord Has kept you pure and without corruption. You are indeed “highly favored” by the Lord and truly loved by Him. This is why He has granted that your virginity be sealed. He has blessed you, and granted that you live the life that you chose, a life of purity and humility, dedicated for the sanctified service of God.

Verse 16

You were likened to the ladder
which Jacob saw
rising up to Heaven
with the Awesome God standing above it.

Our father Jacob saw in a dream a ladder leading up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending. Christ has come to the world, to save His own creation from the bondage of sin and eternal death. How great is this love, O Lord, that you take the form of a servant and die on the Cross, as a slave for our freedom? “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). This is the everlasting life that we thirst and thrive for. You, O Virgin Mother, are the “ladder” through which Christ came down to the world. You are also the “ladder” through which salvation was granted to us so that we may ascend to heaven.

Verse 17

We hail the one who did
Accept the Uncircumscript in her womb
And her virginity,
Was sealed from all sides.

Hail to you O full of Grace! Your heart is filled with the Lord, and you indeed rejoice in His service. You Saint Mary are honored among all humanity. You accepted the will of God, to bear the Son of God. Though you did not know a man, you submitted your will to the Lord, as well as your faith. Moreover, you knew and believed that this was the Lordís mercy and love. You declared to Elizabeth saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” (Lk. 1:46-48). How great is this faith? How great is this honor? How great is this service?

Verse 18-20

You have become our intercessor
Before God our Savior
Who became incarnate of you,
For our salvation.

Behold the Lord came out of you,
O blessed and perfect one,
To save the world which He has created,
According to His many tender mercies.

We praise and glorify Him,
And exalt Him above all,
as Good one and Lover of man,
Have mercy upon us according to Your great mercy.

Hail to you, O Mary, the joy of the faithful, the honored vessel, the pure censer, and great is the glory of your purity, for through you we have been granted salvation. Through You, the Lord of Glory descended for our salvation, and the path to eternal life was opened. You are truly blessed, “exalted more than the Cherubim, and honored more than the Seraphim, for all the high names of the incorporeal did not reach your blessedness,” and indeed you have become our intercessor before our Lord.

We ask you, O Mother of the True Light, the Theotokos and honored Virgin, to ask of Him Whom you have born, the Lord Jesus Christ, that He may forgive us our many sins, Amen.