“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

St. Mary’s Fast 2022 – Daily Contemplations

Day 3 - 8/15/22

Ark of the Covenant:

The Ark of the Covenant is commonly seen as a symbol of St. Mary for various reasons.

First, the Ark was made of incorruptible wood overlaid with gold. In the Old Testament, God commands Moses saying, “They shall make an ark of acacia wood” (Exodus 25:10 ESV). Acacia wood is considered to be one of the most durable types of wood. St. Mary carried Christ in her womb without being corrupted, and her purity remained within and without. In a similar manner, the Ark was made of wood that could not be rotted and the gold on the outside is a symbol of St. Mary’s beauty/purity.

In the Old Testament, King David received the ark of the covenant with great joy and exultation. In 1st Chronicles, it is written, “And as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating” (1 Chronicles 15:29 ESV). In a similar manner, St. John the Baptist jumped with joy in the womb when he came near St. Mary’s womb. In the New Testament, Elizabeth speaks of St. John the Baptist saying, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44 ESV). Just as the Ark of the Covenant filled King David with joy, St. Mary’s presence filled St. John the Baptist with joy.

Burning Bush:

In Exodus 3, we read the story of Moses and the Burning Bush. In this story, an angel of the Lord appears to Moses through a flame of fire in a bush. However, even though the bush was on fire, the fire did not burn the bush.

The Burning Bush is a symbol of St. Mary’s virginity. In the Church hymns, we say, “The Burning Bush seen by Moses; the prophet in the wilderness; the fire inside it was aflame; but never consumed or injured it.” Even though St. Mary was pregnant with our Lord Jesus Christ, her virginity was never affected by giving birth to Christ. She remained pure and unblemished, just like the bush was not affected by the flame of the Lord.

On a side note, the Burning Bush can also be viewed as a symbol of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the fire and the bush did not consume one another, our Lord’s divinity and humanity were combined together “without mingling, without confusion, without alteration for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye.”

Day 2 - 8/11/22

Golden Censor

One vessel used during Liturgy is the Golden Censer (the shiriya). Within the censer, which is
usually made out of gold, there is a burning piece of charcoal alongside incense, producing a
sweet aroma that fills the Church.

The coal is a symbol of Jesus Christ. As St. Cyril writes in the Scholia on the Incarnation of the
Only-Begotten, coal, and fire are two separate entities. However, once the fire lights the coal,
one cannot separate the fire from the coal. Likewise, Jesus Christ is simultaneously fully Divine
and fully Man “without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration” (Liturgy of St. Basil,
the Confession Prayer).

Just as one places a piece of coal inside the censer, likewise, St. Mary carried Jesus Christ in
her womb for nine months. And just like how gold can not combine with any other metal, St.
Mary is one of the purest humans of all time. That is why the Golden Censer is a symbol of St.

Jacob’s Ladder:

Although the story of Jacob’s Ladder occurred thousands and thousands of years before Christ,
the ladder itself is commonly described as a symbol of St. Mary.

In Genesis 28, we read the story of Jacob seeing a ladder extending from Earth to Heaven with
angels ascending and descending the ladder. St. Ambrose of Milan explains what Jacob saw
saying, “he foresaw Christ on earth; the band of angels was descending to Christ and ascending
to him, so as to render service to their rightful master in loving servitude.” Through this
interpretation, it can be seen that the ladder was a connection between the heavenly and the
earthly. In the same manner, St. Mary was the ladder that brought down the Son of God from
heaven and allowed him to be present with us on Earth.

Throughout our hymns and prayers, we refer to St. Mary as the ladder of Jacob. In the Sunday
Theotokia, we describe St. Mary by singing, “you are likened to the ladder, which Jacob saw,
rising up to heaven, with the awesome God standing above it.” Let us strive to be like St. Mary,
who by her love for God became a direct connection between the heavenly and the earthly.

Day 1 - 8/8/22

Noah’s Ark

Many Church Fathers refer to Noah as a prototype of our Lord Jesus Christ. As St. John Chrysostom explains, Noah was a just, perfect, and blameless man of his generation. Because Noah found favor in God’s eyes, he was chosen as a type of savior for humanity in a generation full of wickedness. Without Noah’s obedience and love towards God, humanity would have been completely wiped off the face of the Earth. St. Clement of Rome explained how Noah “proclaimed a new birth to the world.”

In a similar manner, our Lord Jesus Christ is often referred to as just, perfect, and blameless. However, Christ saved mankind through an eternal sacrifice while Noah’s act of salvation was temporary.

Because Noah is a prototype of Jesus Christ, the ark itself can be interpreted as a symbol of St. Mary. Just like Noah and his family were saved through the ark, humanity has been saved through the virgin birth of Christ by St. Mary. If the ark had not been built, Noah’s family would have not survived the flood. In a similar manner, if St. Mary had not subjected herself to God’s will, humanity would not have been saved by Christ’s crucifixion on the cross.

Rod of Aaron

The Rod of Aaron is a wooden staff that was held by Aaron in the Old Testament. During the time of Moses, the rod of Aaron was used for a few miracles. One of these miracles is when the rod of Aaron blossomed. In the book of Numbers, St. Moses writes that “the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8). Since it is a Rod, there were no roots in the ground. Additionally, the Rod was not watered. Yet, the Rod of Aaron brought forth fruit.

Just like how plants sprouted from the Rod of Aaron without planting or watering, St. Mary miraculously gave birth to Christ without the seed of man. Because of this similarity, the Rod of Aaron is a symbol of St. Mary.