The Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church

5 - Areten-thontee

Bishoy K. R. Dawood
May 18, 2011

Contemplations on “Jacob’s Ladder” Verse in the Saturday Theotokia.

You were likened to the ladder,
Which Jacob saw,
rising to heaven,
With the awesome God standing above it.

“Areten-thontee” is a long and joyful verse in the Saturday Theotokia, hence giving us the opportunity to contemplate upon its words. I ask you to allow me to share with you some of my own thoughts, and may the Lord be a guide to all those who wish to contemplate upon His words.

We are told in Gen. 28:10-22, that Jacob was on his way to Haran from Beer-Shaba. During the night, he laid his head on a stone, and fell asleep. In a dream, he saw a ladder rising up to heaven from the earth where the stone was laid, with angels ascending and descending this ladder. The Lord was standing above the ladder. When Jacob arose from his sleep, he was amazed, and called the place where he laid a holy ground. Then, Jacob immediately anointed the stone.

In the hymn, we declare that the ladder is the Virgin Mary, and indeed this is true. The ladder was a means of uniting the heavenly with the earthly, a means through which God in heaven descended to the earth. This ladder, then, is truly the Virgin Mary, through whom the Lord took flesh and became Man.

Likewise the “Stone” is a symbol of Christ. Therefore, Jacob announced that the Stone and the place where it lay are holy. Jacob realized that God had revealed Himself through the stone. When Jacob thought of this, he anointed the stone, which comes to show that the stone was truly the Anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. He is “the Stone that the builders rejected and has become the chief cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22). He is the Stone of which He said of Himself, “The one who falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom It falls” (Mt. 21:44).

What about the angels that descend and ascend upon the ladder, which is the Virgin Mary? I find this fulfilled in the words of Christ: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:51).

How wonderful are Your works O Lord! Since the moment of our creation, You have planned out our salvation because of Your love for us. You exemplified to Jacob that the Virgin Mary would bear God, Whom standing above her in heaven came into her for the Salvation of all.

The one born of her is worshiped and praised by the angels, for He is the Son of Man, and the angels ascend and descend upon Him because the heavens were opened. Through the Virgin, the daughter of Joachim, the ladder joining the heavens with the Stone of the earth, we were given the knowledge of how the heavenly and the earthly were once again united in Christ Jesus our Lord.