The Psalmist says, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted” (Ps 89:15, 16).
Praise has been an important part of Christian worship since the beginning of the Church. More over, our prayers are counted imperfect unless they are completed by praise. Praise includes joyful sound of thanksgiving and glorification with joy. Nothing is more illustrative than the words of St. James, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (Jam 5:13). St. Paul advised the believers of Ephesus saying, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19). He also wrote to the Colossians saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16).
The Greek translation of the Old Testament, Septuagint, used three words for the Book of Psalms, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” which is called in Hebrew Tehillim, meaning “praises.” These psalms used to be sung by the congregation and led by musical leaders who played the assigned tunes on the assigned musical instruments for every psalm during the Temple worship. The Early Church Fathers, as well as Justin Martyr, Tertullian and John Cassian, spoke of “Psalms” as “hymns.” Even the Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived in the 1st century, used the word “hymns” for “psalms.” The prophetZephaniah emphasized this by saying, “The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17). So, we praise during our daily seven prayers (Horologion) with Psalms, according to the Psalmist’s saying, “Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Ps 119:164).
The character of St. Mary the mother of God, Theotokos, possesses a great value and insight into the mystery of the Incarnation. We do not realize the mystery and the opportunity for blessings until we comprehend the meaning of the unity between the divine nature and human nature in the womb of St. Mary. The prophets of the Old Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tried to focus on the mystery of incarnation. They described St. Mary by different names and titles, or by very accurate prophecies fulfilled only by her, or by symbols referring to her. During the Sunday praises the “Theotokia”, there are many symbols mentioned. The first of many marvelous symbols is the Tabernacle and its contents which Moses made according to Gods order.
The Tabernacle of Meeting:
It was the dwelling place of God among His people, as He said to Moses, “I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God” (Exud29:45). The tabernacle was a symbol of St. Mary. God dwelt in St. Mary as He dwelt in the tabernacle. The Lord God dwelled in her, according to the words of the Archangel, “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” (Lk1:35). The theotokia Sunday praises says, “They likened it to you, O Virgin Mary, the true Tabernacle, wherein dwelt God”.
Concerning the difficulty of understanding the mystery of the incarnation we see the cloud covering the Tabernacle of Meeting as the glory of God filled it preventing Moses from entering into it (Exud40:34,35). The theotokia exclaims, “Who can speak of the honor of the Tabernacle which Moses had made on Mount Sinai?! He made it with glory as commanded by the Lord, according to the patterns shown unto him”.
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Jhn4:34)… “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (Jhn7:16-18).
We shouldn’t try achieve our own will, but His will: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt7:21-23)
Martyrdom and the Glory of Martyrs
The story of martyrdom in the history of the early church is the story of early Christianity and its spread across time and everywhere. It illuminates the way to the kingdom with the light of true faith granted to us from the Father through His only begotten Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This great love was manifested on the cross, as He made Himself a sacrifice of atonement for the whole world, in order to bestow salvation and eternal life to all who believe in him and want to live a life of holiness. The pure life, deeds and virtues of those martyrs are luminous before our eyes, encouraging us to walk in their footsteps to enjoy our eternity.