The Virgin Mary and the fast dedicated to her name
There is no woman about whom the prophets prophesied, and about whom the Holy Bible cared about, like the Virgin Mary. There are numerous symbols about her in the Old Testament. In the New Testament also, there is her biography, her praise, and the miracles. How many are the glorifying expressions and the contemplations, which were cited about the Virgin in the books of the fathers. How full of praise are the titles by which the Church calls her, and which are inspired from the Spirit of the Holy Bible! She is the mother of all of us, the lady of all of us, the pride of our
race, the queen at the right hand of the King, the Virgin with perpetual virginity, the pure, the filled with grace, the Saint Mary, the powerful and helpful compassionate mother, the mother of the Light, the mother of mercy and salvation, the true vine.
This is the one whom the Church elevates over the rank of archangels, so that we say about her in her hymns and songs: O Mary, you have been raised above the Cherubim, and have become higher than the Seraphim, O Mary. Mary who was brought up in the temple, and lived the life of prayer and contemplation since her childhood, and who was the sacred vessel whom the Lord chose to dwell within. Long generations waited for the birth of this Virgin, so that the fullness of the time would become complete by her (Gal 4:4). She has removed the shame of Eve, and saved the reputation of women after sin. She is the mother of God, in perpetual virginity. She is the Virgin who came to our country Egypt during the childhood of Christ, and inhabited our land for years, during which she sanctified it, and blessed it. She is the Virgin who appeared in Zeitoun 32 years ago, and attracted to her the feelings of the crowds, with her light, her appearance, and her visit to us. She is the Virgin who makes miracles in numerous places, where we celebrate feasts for her. The stories of her miracles are innumerable. The Virgin is not a stranger to us; because she is profoundly assimilated with the feelings of Copts that come out from faith to special experience and emotion. How great an honour is it for our country and our Church, to be visited in past times by our Lady the Virgin! How great an honour it is that our Lady appeared on her domes many years ago in the land of Egypt! There is not a human being whom Christians have loved as much
as our Lady the Virgin Mary.
THE VIRGIN’S FAST
The Church celebrates the fast of our Lady the Virgin beginning with the first of Mesra, (the 7th of August). It is a fast for which people care very much, and they practice it with forceful asceticism. Some add days to it, in regard of the great love of people for the Virgin. The fast of The Virgin is an occasion for spiritual renaissance in the majority of churches. They prepare a spiritual program for daily sermons, and daily masses too in some churches, even the churches which are not named by the name of the Virgin.
Copts in Egypt, and especially women, take great care for the fast of the Virgin, in a manner that exceeds description. There are many who fast it (with water and salt), that is without even oil. Many add a third week to it, as a kind of vow. There are also
those who vow to fast this fast without eating or drinking till the appearance of the stars in heaven.
What then is the secret behind this great care? Firstly, the Copts love the Virgin because she visited and blessed their country, and left her traces in numerous places where churches have been built. Secondly, the multiple miracles which occurred in Egypt through the intercession of our Lady the Virgin, made many people vow to build churches dedicated to her name. The apparition of the Virgin in her church at Zeitoun, and the many miracles that accompanied this apparition, have certainly increased the affection of the Copts for the Virgin, and for the fast which bears her name.
HH Pope Shenouda III