THE EARLIEST KNOWN PRAYER TO MARY, MOTHER OF GOD (“THEOTOKOS”): “BENEATH THY PROTECTION”
“Beneath Thy Protection” (Greek: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν; Latin: Sub tuum praesidium later translated into English as, “We fly to your patronage“ is the oldest preserved extant hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Theotokos, is well known in many Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
It is a prayer found on a fragment of papyrus dating back to approximately AD 250. The early date of this prayer is important since it proves that the term “Theotokos” was not just a theological concept defended at the Third Ecumenical Council in AD 431, but was already in popular use and well-known several centuries even before the Nestorian heresy. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus stated in AD 379, “If someone does not uphold that the holy Mary is Theotokos, he is separated from divinity.” (Letter 101, PG 37, 177C)
Let us often pray to the Mother of God, our mother as well, not only for our personal intentions, but also for many others: the all those who are suffering from the pandemic and war, from natural calamities, conversion of sinners, for the Church, for our persecuted brethren, for the salvation of the dying, for the holy souls in purgatory….
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. Amen.
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