Every year, the Egyptians celebrate the “Feast of Saint Virgin Mary” on 22nd of August. Speaking about Saint Virgin Mary, we remember her famous praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed, for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name…” So, the love, reverence and honoring of Saint Virgin Mary have been fixed and imprinted in the hearts of all Egyptians; Muslims and Christians throughout generations.
The celebration of the “Feast of Saint Virgin Mary” is preceded by a fast named after her, which lasts for fifteen days. It has a story related to her departure, which is celebrated on the 21st of Tuba (13th of January). Due to being in a missionary in India, Thomas the Apostle did not attend her burial rites, but on his way back from India, he saw an astounding scene: the angels were carrying the body of Saint Virgin Mary up to heaven! So he hurried back to the disciples and asked them about Saint Virgin Mary, and when they informed him about her departure, he asked to see her grave, when they went there, they found her coffin to be empty! He told them what he saw. The apostles resorted to offering a fast to God, which began on the 1st of Misra (7th of August), so that God might allow them to be blessed by seeing the body of Saint Virgin Mary again, and they went on fasting until God fulfilled their desire on 16th of Misra (22nd of August). Hence, that day on which was announced the raising the body of Saint Virgin Mary to heaven became one of her feasts.
Contemplating the character of Saint Virgin Mary, the great faith she carried in her heart is manifested among her superior characteristics, raising her to a great stature that was never ever enjoyed by any other woman throughout ages. Saint Virgin Mary was preached by a supernatural divine secret: She would conceive and deliver a baby without knowing a man, through a special miracle from God, when the annunciating angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest” Saint Virgin Mary asked him, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” In complete submission to the will of God, Saint Virgin Mary believed in the annunciation of the angel, expressing: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word”. Her relative Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, declared this faith when she addressed her: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord!”
In the Quran, Surat Al-Imran, we read: “when the angels said, “O Mary! Surely Allah has selected you, purified you, and chosen you over all women of the world.” In Surat Al-Tahrim: “And the example of Mary, the daughter of ʿImrān, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel [i.e., Gabriel], and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.”
Surat Maryam refers to the angel’s appearance to her while she was alone, praying to God, “And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel [i.e., Gabriel], and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.” So he reassured her that he is a messenger of God to preach her about giving birth to Lord Christ: “She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah.” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy [i.e., son].” She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’”, so she believed in what was told her from God.
That faith was not a moment of submission of Saint Virgin Mary limited to the time of the Annunciation, it rather continued to fill her life, keeping all things and pondering them in her heart, trusting in God’s care, mercy and love for all human beings. It is not surprising that Saint Virgin Mary has occupied a unique stature that enabled her to intercede with Christ at the time of the wedding of Cana in Galilee before time was due to perform His miracles.
Happy feast to all of you, we pray for God to protect the world from diseases, pain and epidemic and to keep our beloved Egypt in security and peace, through the intercessions of Saint Virgin Mary, who blessed our precious homeland going about across its territories with her holy Family, in a visit that was not enjoyed by any other country! And… stories in beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center
18 August 2021