Sunday, 25 October 2015

Legends of Mary the Perpetual Virgin and Her Mother Hanna, by E.W. Budge

Legends Of Our Lady Mary The Perpetual Virgin & Her Mother Hanna: Translated From The Ethiopic Manuscripts Collected By King Theodore At Makdala & Now In The British Museum, translated by E.W. Budge

This book is a collection of Ethiopian apocryphal legends about the Blessed Virgin Mary. These include stories about her birth to Saint Anne (called Hanna here) by Saint Joachim and her childhood in the temple, as recounted in the proto-gospel of James. We also get re-tellings of the Annunciation and Nativity. It also has an account of her Dormition and Assumption, along with an apocalyptic vision of heaven and hell. The translator provides an introduction, detailing how central to devotion to Mary is to Coptic and Ethiopian Christians. He also provides an essay comparing these legends of Mary to the Egyptian legend of Isis, recognising their similarities, but also pointing out important contrasts.

This is such a delightful book. This material is apocryphal and not inspired. We cannot know how much of these stories are true, yet they are pious and venerable traditions compiled by people devoted to Our Lady. Some parts of it are intended for liturgical reading and so are introduced by outpourings of praise and prayer to Mary. This book filled my heart with such love and adoration for our Blessed Mother. It was so inspiring. These stories are also full of references to Scripture. The reader will find in here just how important the Bible is within the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition.

Some Protestants accuse Catholics and Orthodox of worshiping Mary as though she were a goddess. Yet if who would not want to adore such a goddess, if we called her that? The reason we seem so close to treating Mary as a goddess is because we Catholics and Orthodox see in Mary the first step in the divinization of humanity, the union of God and Man.

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