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Theodore Studites, died 826 AD

Theodore Studites

died 826 AD

Theodore reformed a monastery near Constantinople called ‘Studion’ [hence the name ‘Studitis’]. He became its abbot. His contributed greatly to the compilation of monastic rules and regulations. His sermon on the Nativity was, for a long time, wrongly attributed to St. John of Damascus.

The texts of relevance to us have been published in the Patrologiae Cursus. Series Graeca (PG), Migne, Paris 1857-1866, vol. 96. Translation by John Wijngaards.

Mary is a sacrificial priest

“Hail daughter, young sacrificial priest,
whose purity is aimiable and whose vestments are incredibly beautiful, in the eyes of him who says in the Canticles: ‘How beautiful are your feet in your sandals,
o daughter’ of Amminadab. (Cant 7,1)” 2nd Homily on the Nativity. PG 96, col. 693A
Greek thuêpolos means ‘sacrificial priest’.
Amminadab was Aaron’s father-in-law. All Old Testament priests were descendants of Aaron. In Canticles the phrase was: ‘daughter of the prince’. Theodore purposefully lies the connection with Mary's priestly descent.

Mary is [a priest] offering the New Testament sacrifice to God


“Hail, o [lid of] world-wide propitiation for mortals by whom ‘from the east to the west the name of God is glorified among all nations and who in every place offers a sacrifice of incense to his name’ as the holy Malachy (Mal 1,11) says.” Sermon on the Dormition. PG 99, col. 725C.

In a section addressed to priests, Malachy 1,11 announced that ‘in every place among the gentiles an offering of incense and a pure sacrifice would be offered in His name’. This text was understood by the Fathers as foretelling the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

Mary is [a priest] swinging the thurible with incense


“Hail, prayerful incense, dispersed through the whole world in front of the Lord, filled with the good odour of the Holy Spirit and about whom one cries everywhere: ‘Who is this woman emerging from the desert as a column of smoke exhalating incense!’ (Cant 3,6)” 2nd Homily on the Nativity. PG 96, col. 693B

In the early Church the use of incense was one of the distinguishing marks of the divine liturgy of the Eucharist. Incensing was done by the priests and deacons.

“Hail ark [=of the covenant] from which God, showing himself face to face, has spoken to human beings and through which eternal propitiation spread throughout the world.
Hail, thurible, golden instrument, who brought the divine burning charcoal into the interior and through whom the good odour of the Spirit has been spread and through whom the putrid smell of the world was removed.
Hail table and divinely made wine . . .” 2nd Homily on the Nativity. PG 96, col. 689C.

The lid of propitiation and the use of incense refer to the annual rite of atonement performed by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem.

Mary passed on her priestly dignity to Christ

“Hail Blessed Virgin . . . . ointment with which the royal priesthood has been anointed ,
. . . . royal seal, imprinting on the universal King who takes his substance from her, a body similar to that of his Mother,
. . . . incorruptible wood from which the spiritual altar who is Christ, was made,
. . . . royal purple with which was woven the robe of the King and the linen of his priestly vestments,
. . . . through her was made the priestly breastplate of the High Priest, a breastplate woven of purple and gold,
. . . . the purple flower from which are made the corporal vestments of the divine liturgy.” 2nd Homily on the Nativity. PG 96, col. 693C-D.
The ‘breast plate’ [Hebrew=ephod] was a distinctive ornament of the High Priest (Exodus 28, 15-30). It was covered with 12 precious gems and contained in a pouch the stones (Urim and Thummim) of the sacred oracle.
According to Greek legend, the ‘purple flower’ [Greek=huakinthos] had been coloured by the blood of the demi-god Aiax. The Bible prescribed that all priestly vestments needed to have it as an ingredient (Exodus 28, 5.6.8, 15.33).

Mary mediates for us


“Absent in body, she is with us in spirit . . . . mediating for us with the Lord.” Sermon on the Dormition. PG 99, col. 721B.
“The Son of God becomes Son of Man employing the Blessed Virgin as mediatrix.” Catechetical Sermon PG 99 col. 593A.

Mediation is a priestly function.

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