Life of St. Mary
Her Pious Parents
Joachim and Hannah, his wife, were both pious from the house of David (Luke 1:27) of the tribe of Judah. Both were regularly worshiping, and well advanced in years with no child. Archangel Gabriel appeared in a dream to Joachim, announcing that his wife will have a child who will please his heart. Hannah believed this vision when she heard it, and this vision was fulfilled by the birth of St. Mary. As a devoted virgin, she entered the temple at the age of three to live the life of ministry, devotion and worship among the other devotees at the women’s court. She lost her parents before leaving the temple at the age of 14 when the Lord chose her to be the mother of the Word incarnate. She was betrothed to St. Joseph, since it was not allowed to stay at the temple after this age.
The Lord blessed them with another daughter afterwards, and they called her Mary, like her sister who became a devotee for the temple. This Mary became the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus (John 19:25). She is also the mother of James, Joses, Judas, Simon and their sisters (Mark 6:1-3) who were called the brothers of Jesus. James and his brother Judas (Judas1:1), whose surname is Labbaeus or Thaddaeus (Luke 6:13-16; Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13) were among Jesus’ disciples.
Her Betrothal to St. Joseph
The Holy Scriptures declared that the Virgin Mary was betrothed to Joseph the carpenter (Matthew1:18; Luke 1:27, 2:5). Therefore he also must have been from the tribe of Judah. The chief priests consulted together about her betrothal, and immediately the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias the priest and ordered him to collect the staffs from the elders and the youths of Israel, have their names written on it, and place it inside the temple, so that the Lord would choose from them the suitable person for her. This was the same method used by Moses, when the Lord guided him to choose Aaron to be the high priest (Numbers 17:18-20). So, by fulfilling this divine order, a dove landed on the rod that was for the pious elder Joseph the carpenter, and then it stayed on his head. So the priests betrothed her to Joseph and she lived with him, not aiming for marriage, but to guard her virginity and to support her. And this was very obvious as she said to the annunciation angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). Therefore, she was a virgin before and after giving birth to our Lord Jesus. Here it is worthy to note that betrothal was an ancient law (Deuteronomy 22:23-27) and could be annulled (Exodus 21:8, 9). The betrothed virgin was called a woman which means the betrothed wife of her man, although they didn’t get married (Deuteronomy 22:23, 24; Luke 2:5).
The Bible bore a short but good testimony about Joseph by saying he was a just man (Matthew 1:19). His righteousness was verified when the symptoms of pregnancy appeared on her, and doubts started entering his heart, then he was not wanting to make her a public example, and was minded to put her away secretly (Matthew 1:19). When the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream informing him that which was conceived of her is of the Holy Spirit, then he took Mary to him according to the word of the angel (Matthew 1:24). The presence of St. Joseph with St. Mary was essential for helping her during her pregnancy and delivery, and for protecting her against false accusation because of her pregnancy, so no one will think she is a sinner to be stoned to death. At the same time, he was needed to accompany her during the flight to Egypt. Therefore the church named him “The protector of the mystery of incarnation.” St. Mary stayed at his house in Nazareth of Galilee since her betrothal (Luke 1:26, Mark 1:9).
Annunciation of the Virginal Conception
Historians believed that the annunciation occurred four months after the betrothal. Gabriel the angel carried two messages: the first one was to Zacharias the priest concerning the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11-22), and the second message was to St. Mary concerning the Word incarnate (Luke 1:26-38). St. Mary went to serve the old lady Elizabeth, after she knew about her pregnancy. As soon as the virgin greeted her, both the mother and the six months babe were moved, and Elizabeth said, “… as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:44). Indeed, she was able to feel the babe’s movement, but how she knew about his leaping for joy? John the babe perceived who is in St. Mary’s womb, and attracted his mother’s attention by his leaping, so she was filled by the Holy Spirit.
At Zacharias’ house, three praises were said:
- St. Mary praised with her famous song (Luke 1:46-55),
- Elizabeth praised the Virgin with the fruit of her womb after being filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:42),
- Zacharias praised after the birth of John (Luke 1:67-79).
Giving Birth to the Messiah
Christ, the King of kings, was born during the census in Bethlehem, the same city in which David was born (1Samuel 16:1) and was anointed king (1Samuel 16:13). St. Mary gave birth to her only Son, the firstborn, (Matthew 1:25) in a manger. The watching shepherds visited the unblemished Lamb of God in the manger (Luke 2:8). It was suitable that a heavenly sign declared the coming of the Incarnate Word of God from the heaven. So, the unusual star had led the magi to visit Him (Matthew 2:1-12). Indeed, all creation rejoiced for the coming of their Creator to the world, and declared Him openly.
When the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, St. Mary and St. Joseph brought Him to the temple in Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (Luke 2:22), and she offered the sacrifice of the poor (Luke 2:24). They met with Simon the elder and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:25-38).
The Holy Family in Egypt
This visit fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 19:1-19). The swift cloud which carried the Lord Jesus to Egypt was representing St. Mary, who exceeded the clouds in her purity; while the alter in the midst of Egypt represents its Christian Church which replaced the pagan temples where the idols were shaken and destroyed before the Lord. In this regard, St. Athanasius the Apostolic says, “Who among the righteous and the kings dwelt in Egypt, and its idols were destroyed before him… Abraham visited Egypt, but paganism didn’t cease to exist. Moses was born in Egypt but the idol worshipers didn’t change.” The stay of Christ in pagan Egypt declared that He came for the salvation of all, Jews and Gentiles. After their return from Egypt, the Holy Family stayed again in Nazareth.
Christ’s Relation with His Mother and St. Joseph
As the Virgin became a mother without marriage, St. Joseph became a father without marriage (Luke 2:48; Matthew 13:55, 56; Luke 4:22) and Jesus was subject to them (Luke 2:55). St. Ephraim the Syrian explains the relationship between St. Joseph and Christ the child saying, “Joseph was playful with Him as a child, while worshiping Him as God. He found his pleasure in Him as a good Lord, and as a just God he trembled at His presence saying, ‘Who made me worthy to have the Son of the highest as my son’.” The Holy Family used to go to Jerusalem every year for the Passover feast (Luke 2:41-51), and the incident where they were looking for the twelve years old Boy Jesus, who lingered behind in Jerusalem, is the last time Joseph was mentioned in the Bible. He was not present neither during Jesus’ ministry, trials, crucifixion nor resurrection, which is an evidence of his departure being an elder man.
The Lord Christ was called “The carpenter’s Son” (Matthew 13:55), and He spent the first thirty Years of His life in Nazareth, and was called many times “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11; Mark 1:24). His first miracle was in Cana of Galilee, as an answer for His Mother’s request (John 2:1-11). The virgin was the mother of Christ, not only because of her motherhood, but because her spiritual saintly life, as she was doing the will of God (Luke 8:21) and in keeping His commandments and his words. No doubt that the virgin shared with her Son bitter sufferings, just as Simeon the elder prophesied to her (Luke 2:34, 35). And before the Lord Jesus gave up His Spirit, He delivered His mother to his celibate apostle John (John 19:36, 37), because she had no one to take care of her, after Him. Jesus’ love to her was very obvious, as He spent with her 90% of the time He granted to all mankind, since He spent with her the first thirty years of His life, making the time of His ministry on earth to be only three years and four months.
The End of Her Life
St. John took her to his own home, as his mother, from that hour before the burial of the Savior. We couldn’t find any Biblical proof that St. Mary visited the empty tomb of Christ; to emphasize her strong faith in His resurrection that does not need any physical proves. St. Luke, in the book of Acts mentioned that she continued with the apostles with one accord in prayer and supplication (Acts 1:14).
The Lord didn’t desire that the body in which He dwelt and took His humanity from it, to be subject to deterioration and corruption; so He took her body up to heaven, after her death. She departed at the age of sixty, fifteen years after the Lord’s ascension, when an angel was sent to inform her about the time of her departure. She was very happy and asked the apostles to be gathered with her, then her Son and Savior Jesus Christ came and received her blessed soul on Sunday 21st of Tobi (January 29th). The church tradition tells us that when the holy apostles were carrying her body for burial, some of the Jews obstructed them and one of them tried to attack the carried body, but his arms were separated from his body and he was crying bitterly. After the prayers of the apostles, his arms were reattached again. So they buried the body in the mountain of Jehoshaphat.
St. Thomas the apostle saw her blessed body carried by the angels to the paradise, while he was returning to Jerusalem, so he made haste and kissed the sacred body. When he met the apostles he asked about her body, so they took him to her tomb only to discover that it was empty, so he informed them with what he had seen. Fulfilling their request, the Lord allowed them to see her sacred body, one more time, in 16th of Misra (August 22nd).