The Veneration Of The Virgin Mary In Egypt And Ethiopia Part 3.

But it was not angels and men alone who honoured Mary and revered her as the Mother of God, for Christ Himself, when He rose from the dead and appeared to her and the other women at the tomb mounted on the chariot of the Father of the Universe, cried out, saying, " Mari Khar Mariath," that is to say, " Mary, the Mother of the Son of God." Then Mary, who knew the meaning of the words, said, " Hramboune Kathiathari Mioth.," whereof the interpretation is, " The Son of the Almighty, and my Son." And He said unto her, " Hail, My Mother ! Hail, My holy Ark ! Hail, thou who art the Sustainer of the life of the whole world ! Hail, My holy Garment, wherein I arrayed Myself ! Hail, My Waterpot, which is full of holy water ! Hail, My Mother, My House, My Place of Abode ! Hail, My Mother, My City, My Place of Refuge ! Hail, thou who hast received into thine own composition the Seven Ó•ons ! Hail, thou Table, set in the Paradise of the Seventh Heaven, the name of which is ' Khomthomakh ! ' All Paradise rejoiceth in thee. I say unto thee, O My Mother, He who loveth thee loveth Life. Hail, thou who didst sustain the Life of the Universe in thy womb ! . . . I will give My peace, which I have received from My Holy Father, to My disciples, and to every one who shall believe in My Name and in Mary, My Mother, the Virgin in very truth. My spiritual Womb, My Treasure of Pearl, the Ark of the sons of Adam, who carried the body of the Son of God, and the Blood of Him Who indeed took away the sin of the world."

And round and about Him there were standing hundreds of thousands of Archangels, and hundreds of thousands of the Cherubim, and millions of the Seraphim, and millions of the Powers, and their heads were bowed, and they made answer to the blessing, saying, "Amen, Hallelujah," to that which the Son did speak with His mouth to Mary. Then our Saviour stretched out His right hand, which was full of blessing, and He blessed the womb of Mary, His Mother. And I [Bartholomew] saw the heavens open, and the Seven Firmaments were opened together. I saw a man of light shining brightly, like unto a pearl upon which it was impossible for any man to look. And [I saw] also a hand of fire which was of the colour of snow, and it rested upon the belly of Mary and [her] breast. Now this hand was the right hand of the Father, and the right hand of the Son, and the right hand of the Holy Ghost. And He blessed . . .[The text is mutilated.]  [and said] . . . Thou shalt be called' Pearl of the Father,' and on earth men shall call thee ' Mother of God ' and ' oar Salvation.' The blessing of the Father shall be with thee always. Amen. Hallelujah. The might of the Son shall overshadow thee. Amen. Hallelujah. The joy of the Holy Spirit shall continue to remain with thee at all times. Amen. Hallelujah. And when thou shalt come forth from the body I Myself will come with My Father, and Michael, and all the angels, and thou shalt be with Us in My kingdom. And over thy body I will make the Cherubim, having a sword of fire, to keep watch, and twelve hundred angels also shall watch over it until the day of My appearance and of My [kingdom]."[I quote from the Book of the Resurrection of Christ, by Bartholomew the Apostle (ed. Budge, Coptic Apocrypha, p. 191).]

It follows of necessity that men and women who attributed such power and glory to Mary would not fail to beseech her to help them in their daily troubles and afflictions, and to be their intercessor with Christ in heaven. That such was the case is proved by the Discourses of many eminent spiritual heads, and from those which have come down to us in Coptic the following passages are quoted :—

Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, says :—" I beseech thee, O Virgin, Mother of God, to help me Epiphanius, thy worthless servant, and to make supplication to Christ on behalf of all the people of my city, nay more, of the whole world, and to be nigh unto me at all times. For unto thee more than to all the saints be-longeth the power to make supplication unto Him, so that He may fill the hungry with bread, and may heal the sick, and may lead those who have gone astray back into His holy fold.''[Budge, Miscellaneous Coptic Texts, p. 714.]

Cyril of Alexandria says :—" O wise Virgin, I beseech thee to bring the favour of God, Who is thy Son, upon us, and may He forgive us our sins, and deliver us from all the crafts of the Adversary the Devil. Take us all to thyself, lest the Devil take delight in us and draw us down into the Gehenna of fire. O Mary, do thou draw nigh unto the King, the Christ, that He may receive thy supplication on our behalf, for He is thy Son and thy Beloved, and thou didst bear Him, and He called thee ' My Mother.' Verily, O Mary the Virgin, thy honour is greater than that of all the other women in the world. He Who breathed breath into every created being called thee ' My Mother ' ! Thou art more exalted than the Cherubim and the Seraphim, thou art more blessed than the Thrones, because the Christ loved thee. He sojourned with thee because thou art Saint Mary, the perpetual Virgin." [Ibid., p. 723.]

When and by what means Egyptian Christianity entered Ethiopia is not known with certainty. Communication by caravans must always have been kept up between Syria and the more north-easterly parts of Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, and it is very probable that some knowledge of Christianity was carried into them before the time of Frumentius by caravans and traders of various nationalities. And individual travellers, like the eunuch whom St. Philip baptized, may well have carried back into Ethiopia the news of the Gospel. The Christians in Egypt were sufficiently numerous at the end of the second century to incur the wrath of the Romans, who started a general persecution of them in the reign of Severus. The persecution of the Christians continued under Decius, Valerian and Diocletian, and large numbers of them fled into Upper Egypt, Nubia and the Northern Sudan. If we may believe Bar-Hebraeus (Hist. Dynast., text p. 135) Christianity had penetrated into the Sudan, Nuba and Abyssinia, as well as all Egypt, in the time of Constantine. Before the close of the 6th century, and during the reign of Silko, the official religion of Nubia was Christian, and the capital of the ncw Christian kingdom was Old Dongola. In process of time Christianity spread southwards, and during the Middle Ages there were four hundred churches in the kingdom of 'Aiwa, which was probably situated near the modern town of Khartum. Alvarez talked to a certain " John of Syria " who stated that there were still in the country one hundred and fifty churches which contained crucifixes and pictures of the Virgin Mary painted on the walls, and that they all were old.^ These facts justify the assumption that there were many Christians in all parts of Ethiopia at this time ; but the oldest and finest remains of early Christianity in the country were to be found in Aksum and its neighbourhood.

When the worship or cult of the Virgin began in Ethiopia cannot be stated with certainty, but there seems to be no reason for doubting that invocations were made to her as soon as her history was known and accepted by the people. Pictures of the Virgin must have been common in Egypt before the close of the third century, and it is probable that the figures of Isis and Horus suggested the form they should take. In the fifth century pictures of Mary and the Child became commoner still, and this may have been the result of the overthrow of Nestorius and his heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Monophysites, or Christians who believed that the divine and human were blended in one incarnate Nature in Christ, were convinced that Mary was the Mother of God, and the original form of the group known as the " Madonna and Child " became once and for all the expression of the Orthodox Faith. Wherever the knowledge of the Monophysite, or Jacobite, or Eutychian Faith penetrated, there went pictures of the Virgin. Saint Augustine (born 354, died 430) did not believe that any of the existing portraits of the Virgin were authentic, but very great veneration was paid to the picture of the Virgin and Child which Eudocia Aelia
(born 393, died 450), wife of Theodosius, acquired in the Holy Land and sent to her sister-in-law Pulcheria in Constantinople. It was believed to be very old, and tradition asserted that it was painted from life. Many enthusiasts assumed that St. Luke was the painter. Be this as it may, in the sixth century the churches in Syria and Egypt were full of pictures of Christ and the Virgin, and saints and martyrs. During the second half of the seventh century the Copts held under the Arabs, the new masters of Egypt, many lucrative positions, and they were able to assist materially the offshoot Christian community of Ethiopia. It was probably about this time that many Coptic books, including the great service " Theotokia," whence was derived the Ethiopic Weddase Maryam, or " Book of Praise of Mary," were translated into Arabic and Ethiopic.

From - Legends of the Virgin Mary