Translation – A Discourse by St Severus on the Virgin Mary


This is a part of a discourse by St Severus of Antioch about the Virgin Mary. He especially describes the Virgin Mary as Prophet, Apostle and Martyr. This text has been translated from the French translation. I believe it may be the first English translation.

The Translator from the Coptic, E. Porcher, says…

The volume 131 of the Coptic collection of the National Library contains seven pieces bearing the name of Severus of Antioch. After the first cathedral homily, published in the Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, t. XIX, 1911, No. 1, pp. 9, and No. 2, p. 135, the most complete piece is the one we give here. It is unfinished, indicated by the fact that the scribe, stopped in the middle of a word without completing his last line. The speech occupies the two pages of folio 67. It is a tight text without columns, with 49 lines on the front, 18 on the back, and about 50 letters per line. The spelling is defective. (Some passages seem incomprehensible when we do not modify the text, but we have reproduced it as it is, hoping that others will find the true meaning).


A discourse of the Holy Patriarch and Bishop of Antioch, Abba Severus, pronounced on the one who is ever virgin and the Holy Mother of God, Mary, on the day of her holy commemoration. In the peace of God. Amen.

It is fitting and right that we speak in honor of all the saints, that we give them glory, that we celebrate them in hymns, psalms and spiritual songs, because they were the faithful ministers of the will of God and that they have cooperated with him “in the economy of our salvation. And first the Prophets have a right to our praise, because they first told us the great mystery of religion by their own virtues, then the Apostles, who preached it to us, and also the Martyrs, we must honor them with the Prophets as having confirmed and supported the preaching of the Apostles: that is why they have bequeathed such a name from the very Truth which is Christ, According to this use indeed, the name we give to men who may be ready to combine in their testimony the tortures we know of, it is that of Martyrs.

The testimony of the Martyrs is the shedding of their own blood, as a result of the shedding of the first holy innocent blood shed for us all, that of the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, who testified of himself to all. Of course, he has no need of another testimony, the one who testified under Pontius Pilate; he made the true confession, according to the word of the Apostle, and that is what is needed above all. How indeed is it that he who is Truth itself would need another, more credible testimony? Yet he accepted the assent and declaration of his own servants, and to them also he granted the great honor of being called Martyrs.

The holy Virgin, virgin always and in all things, the one who has given birth to God in all truth, Mary, let us praise and glorify her: for she is a prophet, she is an Apostle, and she is a Martyr.

She is a prophet, according to the word of Isaiah, which he uttered concerning this subject: he came near to the prophetess; she conceived,  she begot a son, and, he adds, the Lord said to me, “Give him this name: Rise up in haste, and take him quickly; because before the child can call his father and mother he will take the power of Damascus and despoil Samaria before the king of the Assyrians. Who is called in the Holy Scripture: the prophetess, who begot a son to whom we have given a name like this: Rise up in haste and take him quickly, which immediately after his birth, before knowing his father and mother, removed wars and abolished the works of the devil? What is she, if not the holy Mother of God, Mary, who gave birth to God and gave birth to Immanuel, who, from his birth according to the flesh, abolished the tyranny of the devil by taking the power of Damascus and despoiled Samaria. They are, in a sense, the worship of idols: for Damascus is generally interpreted as the city of blood, and the same of Samaria, because golden calves were made there, and were given the name which belongs only to God. They have established their worship which consists of two things: the making of statues and the libations made in giving the name of God to the works of their hands, by prostrating themselves before them and offering them sacrifices of blood.

Now this error of idols, it was swept away at the moment when Emmanuel was born, he drew towards him the Magi, being still wrapped in the swaddling of childhood, then having gone to Egypt as prophesied by Isaiah, he acted in front of the king of the Assyrians. He took off his armor in which he put his trust and he scattered his remains as it is written. It is the devil that the prophet calls king of the Assyrians: and not only this one: but in many of the writings of the other prophets he is called by that name. “It is the same child the prophetess has given birth to us, while still small, and just at the moment of her birth, he has robbed the devil of his tyranny. And do not be surprised, so says the prophet Isaiah; for the child is Almighty God, the Angel of the great council: it is he who taught us the glory of his Father, he has made us contemplate the Father in him: he is the living Word and the image of his immoveablity; moreover, the child is a wonderful counselor; he is with his Father the creator of all things, visible and invisible; he has heard from his Father, as counselor – for he is equal to Him in the glory of the Divinity in one indivisible unity: “Let us make a man in our image and likeness”; and likewise: “The Son has all authority”; he is the power of the invisible Father. Christ is a power of God: He has heard from his Father, according to what comes to him: “Your throne, O God, is from all eternity: the scepter of your kingship is a scepter of righteousness.” He is also the Prince of Peace, since it is he who reconciles what is in heaven with what is on the earth, having made peace by his own blood on his holy cross, as the sacred apostle said – The child is even the father of ages to come: it is this Word of life that makes the seed of the resurrection germinate for us with the hopes of the endless ages, that is, the kingdom of heaven which he has preached to us every day. days. Therefore, before giving birth to this child, who is the Lord of all the prophets together, the Blessed Virgin already prophesied herself after the greeting of Elizabeth, saying, “Behold, all nations will call me honoured; he has done great things for me, he that has power and whose name is holy; whose mercy is from generation to generation for those who fear him.

We must also, in all fairness, ourselves call the Blessed Virgin, Apostle, and especially that we place her at the head of all the apostles: for, first, she was chosen with the apostles, as it is written in the Acts. They were gathered together, persevering in prayer with Mary, mother of Jesus; and then, they received the order by which the disciples were made apostles, that is to say the word they heard from the Lord: Go, teach all nations. What are the places, where are the peoples that the Blessed Virgin did not teach, bringing them to the knowledge of God by her miraculous maternity, in this mysterious way, like a trumpet proclaiming in all places in accents constantly echoing with the preaching of the holy gospel: The Word became flesh, he dwelt among us and we saw his glory, as the glory of an only son of his father, full of grace and truth. It is indeed really the root and foundation of the gospels.

Nobody will hesitate to call her Martyr: first she remained under the suspicion of Joseph (he thought, when she was pregnant, that she had been in adultery) until the angel appeared to him and taught him the mystery of generation; then she fled to Egypt because of Herod’s fury; after her escape, she turned away from her own city of Nazareth for fear of Archelaus; moreover, in all the days of her life, the murderous Jews held a council and deliberated to put her to death.

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