“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate – The Church of Alexandria

St. Mary & St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church
Reaching out to Somerset and Hunterdon Counties in NJ

Koiahk Weekly Contemplations

4th Week of Koiahk

Weekly Koiahk Readings
Koiahk Writing Week 4: St. Mary’s Life of Faith Without Grumbling

Throughout Koiahk, we have contemplated different characteristics seen throughout the life of the Theotokos St. Mary including humility, obedience, and endurance. As we conclude the month of Koiahk, we are going to focus on the steadfast faith of St. Mary. Despite her many difficulties, her adamant faith allowed her to persist through these struggles without complaint. When Herod threatened to kill Jesus and the family had to flee, St. Mary did not question God. Instead, she had faith that the Lord would help them prevail over any tribulations that came her way. As St. John Chrysostom writes, “see from this also their faith, how they were not offended, but are docile, and considerate; neither are they troubled, nor reason with themselves, saying, And yet, if this Child be great, and has any might, what need of flight, and of a clandestine retreat?”

From this point on, St. Mary was aware that being the Mother of God did not mean having an easy life. Rather, the only way she would be able to endure the difficulties of this life is through her faith. St. Mary never doubted God’s plan for her and remained a loyal servant of God her entire life. Even to the point of the cross, St. Mary stood by the side of Jesus. It is never easy for a mother to see her beloved son die in front of her eyes, but St. Mary had faith that there was a plan in place and that she would be able to see her Son again.

Throughout all of the Gospels, there is no written evidence of St. Mary complaining about the difficulties in her life. Rather, nearly every word that she speaks glorifies God, thanking him for granting her the gift of being the Theotokos, the ever-holy Mother of God. Let us strive to have a never-ending faith so that we can overcome any difficulties through the grace of God.

Sources:
Bible, English Standard Version
Catena Bible and Commentary, Matthew 2:12
The Holy Virgin St. Mary Book by Pope Shenouda

3rd Week of Koiahk

Weekly Koiahk Readings
Koiahk Writing Week 3: Life of Endurance

St. Mary has many beautiful virtues to study and emulate. In the past weeks, we have focused on her living a life of humility and of obedience. This week we are going to focus on St. Mary living a life of endurance. St. Mary began this life of endurance as a child living without her parents. She endured and embraced a life of solitude living in the temple as a child. When St. Mary became of age, she came out of the temple and lived simply under the custody of St. Joseph the carpenter. This life of endurance continued through the birth, life, and death of our Lord and her Son.

St. Mary endured trials and difficulties in the time when Jesus Christ was to be born. After a difficult journey, St. Joseph and St. Mary needed to find an inn to stay at; however, there were no available inns and she endured giving birth to the Lord in a manger amongst barn animals. It was also not possible for St. Mary to say that she gave birth while being a virgin, so she kept silent and endured that as well. She became the mother of God at a young age and never complained, keeping her faith in the Lord in all situations. As His mother, Pope Shenouda III says that St. Mary suffered a sword—as Simeon prophesied in Luke 2:34-35—piercing her own soul by witnessing her Son endure persecutions, insults, shame, and great suffering on the Cross. Still, her joy is maintained from the Annunciation when she said “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Here, St. Mary praised the Lord for everything that she has been given, for having this opportunity to carry the Savior of the whole world, and for God giving her this path of endurance and faith in order to become the intercessor for mankind.

May God allow us to learn from this virtue of a life of endurance that St. Mary lived and to implement it in our everyday lives by enduring all of life’s challenges with joy and thanksgiving. For without endurance, we cannot sustain our relationship with our Lord.

Sources:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1&version=ESV
http://www.stminahamilton.ca/2010/08/the-virtues-of-the-holy-virgin-mary-by-pope-shenouda-iii

2nd Week of Koiahk

Weekly Koiahk Readings
Koiahk Writing Week 2: Life of Obedience

For the blessed month of Kiahk, in addition to Sunday gospel commentaries, we will also be discussing the virtues that St. Mary possessed. Today, we will be talking about the ways that St. Mary lived a life of obedience. 

Before discussing the ways that St. Mary practiced obedience, it is first important to understand the definition of obedience. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being obedient is “being submissive to the restraint or command of authority.” And many of the Church Fathers emphasize the importance of obedience. St. Clement says that “It is the will of God that he who repents of his sins and is obedient to the commandments should be saved,” and even Jesus himself says, “Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death” (John 8:51). Through being obedient to God and His word, we can be given the gift of eternal life. Obedience is the first degree of humility and as St John Climacus writes, “Obedience is the grave of your own will, but from it rises humility.”

Throughout all of St. Mary’s life, she lived a life of obedience. St. Mary wanted to live a life without being with a man. However, when some of the people in the temple ordered her to be with Joseph, she didn’t protest or refuse but rather accepted. When the Archangel Gabriel came to St. Mary during the Annunciation, St. Mary did not say no but rather said “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 ESV). In this instance, she submitted to the Will of God by saying that she is the servant of the Lord. By accepting that Christ would come into her womb, Christ became Man and was able to save us. St. Mary saying “no” would be a big hindrance to the salvation of mankind. One final example of obedience is the fact that St. Mary moved to Egypt after the Angel told Joseph to do so (Matthew 2:13-15). St. Mary has free will. She could have said no, but rather she submitted to the will of God, an example of obedience. 

When talking about obedience, St. Mary exemplifies acts of obedience and shows us an example of a true life of obedience. May we always continue to learn from St. Mary’s obedience so we may live a life of obedience. 

Sources: 

1st Week of Koiahk

Weekly Koiahk Readings
Koiahk Writing Week 1: St. Mary’s Life of Humility

Throughout Koiahk, our church will be contemplating different characteristics seen throughout the life of the Theotokos St. Mary. One of the most prominent characteristics of St. Mary is her humility.

When Archangel Gabriel told St. Mary that she will be the Mother of God, she accepted with a humble heart saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:36 ESV). While this statement may seem of not much significance, we must put her words into context. Archangel Gabriel was placing the responsibility of being the Mother of God in the hands of St. Mary. Instead of asking why or how or refused due to the difficulties that would occur as a result of being the mother of the Messiah, St. Mary understood that as a servant of the Lord, she must do the will of her Master.

In our Sunday Theotokia, we praise St. Mary singing, “Your glory, O Mary, is higher than heaven, you are more honored than the earth, and its inhabitants.” Out of all women in generations of the past and generations of the future, St. Mary was chosen to be the Mother of God. This speaks to how favored she was in our God’s eyes. Despite this, St. Mary remains humble and thanks God saying, “he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48 ESV).

There is a beautiful contrast between the pride of Eve and the humility of St. Mary. Eve thought she was greater than God’s Law, and as a result, brought death into the world. On the contrary, St. Mary accepted God’s request with a humble heart and by doing so, brought the promise of eternal life into the world.

As St. Augustine explains, “O true lowliness, which has borne God to men, has given life to mortals, made new heavens and pure earth, opened the gates of Paradise, and set free the souls of men. The lowliness of Mary was made the heavenly ladder by which God descended upon earth.”

Let us strive to accept the will of God in our lives with a humble and lowly heart—just as St. Mary did when God called on her to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sources: