Moving the Heart of God Like Saint Mary
by Shery Abdelmalak
If you were to ask your typical Coptic Christian what Saint Mary meant to them, they’re likely to have a story for you. When I was younger I was always told that Saint Mary roams the earth, collecting prayers, making intercessions for her children all around the world. Her work on earth is endless. Her compassion is second to none and moves the Hand of God to action on our behalf.
As a child, hearing stories about Saint Mary didn’t make me want to ask for her help. It just showed me that she was really busy, and if I wanted help then maybe I should ask a different saint that wasn’t so busy. It all seemed logical; they’re all saints after all, aren’t they? There is something very special about Saint Mary that I still don’t fully understand. Saint Mary isn’t waiting for us to ask for her help. She is roaming the earth looking for the broken, the lonely, those in despair, those in sorrow – and praying for those that don’t even know where to start. Lucky are the ones that go straight to her, but for those that don’t, Saint Mary fights for you too, I want to say she fights for you even more.
It was for her sake that Jesus’ first miracle took place during the wedding of Cana of Galilee. When the wine ran out at the wedding, Saint Mary immediately went to Jesus, with faith that He could fix all. He responded saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).
Jesus’ time was yet to come because those in need did not request His help but rather, His mother approached Him on their behalf. Saint John Chrysostom says, “When a person is needy, he becomes thankful upon receiving help, whereas someone who does not feel needy will not have any clear feelings towards a benefit he receives.”
Jesus preached this to us and the church enforces it endlessly – come to Him when you are in need and He will be sufficient for all your needs. He promised us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Rest is available to us, but first, come to Him. That is the prerequisite, but the beauty of Saint Mary and her immense love shines through her prayers for us even before we come to Him.
The Wedding of Cana was the perfect example of this. Saint Mary was the one that came to Jesu, not those in need. This miracle was likely to be witnessed by a small group; Jesus, Saint Mary and the servants that brought the pots of water to Him. Jesus acted knowing that the master of the feast and the bridegroom would have been unaware of the miracle that had occurred for their sakes. Had they have known, they would have felt great humiliation knowing that at their wedding feast, the wine had run out.
We know that humiliation, when given to God, breeds humility. But who is to say that the next time I see humiliation, I will immediately run to God instead of first trying to cover it up? Tribulations can have polar affects depending on how they are approached. Saint Mary had compassion on them so that they would learn their human weaknesses elsewhere, and not from their humiliation.
Like the bridegroom, we don’t always know. We don’t always see our human states. We may recognise our faults and attempt to overcome them on our own merits, rather than seeing that true healing comes when we empty ourselves of all pride and humiliation alike. We can be so afraid of the shame of our human weaknesses that we don’t look up to Him and beg for His mercy.
This is why we plead for the intercessions of Saint Mary. Saint Mary who interceded at the wedding of Cana of Galilee continues to have compassion on the nations of the undeserving, and pleads for us accordingly.
Hence, we remember the assumption of Saint Mary’s precious body that could never remain on our undeserving earth. The fast of Saint Mary was instituted by the people for their love of Saint Mary and complete faith in the power of her intercessions. This love continues till this day as the congregation not only willingly fasts, but desires to extend the period of fasting (with some fasting 3 weeks instead of the set 2 weeks). Her intercessions are also the reason why we call her, “the gate of heaven.” Saint Mary was the gate by which Christ entered the world and in turn, gave us Life. In the same way, her intercession continues to be the gate of salvation and thus, we fast in thanksgiving and in complete admiration of who she is and the blessing of her example.
Saint Mary is the definition of all things beautiful, of all things wise, of all things noble, of all things true. As I try to do the unattainable – writing to do her justice – I can only pray, that you, reading this, be on the lookout for her, for she is never far away from those in need. May her blessings be with us and glory be to God forever, Amen.