An ancient prayer to Our Lady

Posted on Jun 12, 2020

In Egypt, a fragment of papyrus dating back to the third century has been found with this prayer, which used to be recited in the past by persecuted Christians.

 

There is an ancient prayer, recited in the past in difficult times by Christians, to which people of different languages and backgrounds still recur today to invoke the powerful intercession of Mary.

 

Br GIORGIO MARIA VIGNA, ofm
Biblist
“This prayer, which we know in English and also in other languages, is actually a translation from an ancient Latin prayer dating back to 800-900, therefore medieval. But it has been discovered that this Latin version has another Greek version that dates back to the third century, around 250.”

In Egypt, a fragment of papyrus dating back to the third century has been found with this prayer, which used to be recited in the past by persecuted Christians.

Br GIORGIO MARIA VIGNA, ofm
Biblist
“In the middle of the third century, in 250-260, there was a terrible persecution against Christians by the Emperor Decius, and this persecution had affected the whole empire, but especially the northern part of Africa, and especially Egypt: Christians were subjected to systematic and studied persecution. In that social, political and ecclesial context, the conscience of the Christian people turned to Mary, to Mary’s mercy.”

The prayer contains a Marian dogma: Mary is in fact invoked by people with the title Theotókos, which in Greek means “Mother of God”.

Br GIORGIO MARIA VIGNA, ofm
Biblist
“Holy Mother of God”: we already meet this expression in this ancient prayer of the third century, and what is very beautiful is that this prayer does not come from the liturgy, but from the conscience of the people, the use of the people. Then, later, it entered the liturgy but it is the awareness, the sense of faith of the people that produced this prayer, using the expression “Mother of God” for Mary. Not only: this prayer is from the middle – more or less – of the third century, but even before this prayer the expression “Mother of God” is found in other Christian writings from Egypt.”

It was on Calvary, from the top of the Cross, that Jesus gave Mary to humanity as Mother. This is why her powerful protection is used at all times, even in dangerous situations.

Br GIORGIO MARIA VIGNA, ofm
Biblist
“In these times we have known this Coronavirus, which has affected more than a million people and has killed hundreds of thousands…and it’s not over. This disease, besides having caused physical damage to many people by causing them to die or putting them in difficulty, even permanently, has also brought a sort of wound in humanity, in the management of everyone’s daily life. And once again I believe that Mary Mother of God can help us, and therefore I believe that knocking on her door is a good way to find refuge, and a safe refuge.”

The ancient prayer recites:

“We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”