Marian heritage in the early Church
The lecture was a continuation of the second chapter, Marian heritage in the early Church. First to be examined were the views of the Jerusalemites: Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote of Mary as Mother in his catechetical discourses and lecture, as well as Hesychus who concentrated on the Eve-Mary contrast, Theotokos, and the use of Is 7:14.
Then came the Cappadocian fathers: Basil the great who wrote a about the holiness and virginity of Mary, his brother Gregory of Nyssa who concentrated on the virginity and Motherhood of Mary, their friend Gregory of Nazianz who was the first to propose Theotokos as the criterion for Orthodoxy, and Amhilochius of Iconium who also drew the Eve-Mary parallel and agreed with Basil that Mary must have suffered some doubts.
The Antiocheans who included John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia also wrote about Mary. The former teaches about the possibility of Mary’s defects and her perpetual virginity, while the latter focuses on the fact of Mary having given Jesus the flesh and consequently his Davidic descent.
Cyril of Alexandria, an ardent defender of Theotokos against Nestorian and his supporters, was presented in class today. The efforts of Cyril eventually bear fruits when the 431 council of Ephesus affirms Theotokos against Nestorius. He also thinks of Mary as the Mediatrix of graces- through her salvation is achieved.
Ephrem of Syria, popularly referred to as the “Harpist of Marian Melodies”, composed great and many hymns in praise of Mary, at times drawing out the Eve-Mary parallel.
Other fathers and teachers of the fifth century were: Proclus of Constantinople who was a staunch devotee and an enthusiastic defender of Theotokos; Theodotus of Ancyra a humble believer who preferred to stand in adoration before the truths superior to the human mind; Cealius Sedulius the liturgical poet in praise of Mary; Peter Chrysologius who emhasised the tripartite virginity of Mary; and Servus of Antioch a great devotee of Mary.In the sixth century one of the greatest writers on Mary is Romanos the Melodist whose most famous hymn about ‘Mary at the foot of the cross’ was read in class today. It takes the form of a dialogue between Mary and Jesus, her son. Others in this period as presented are: the anonymous “Akathist” hymn, Gregory of Tours, and Vanantius Fortunatus.