Friday, 20 November 2015

Sub Tuum Præsidium

Mother of God
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν or in Latin Sub tuum præsidium is one of the oldest Christian hymns, certainly the oldest to Mary the mother of Jesus.  It was found in Egypt in Greek on a papyrus dating to about AD 250.

The hymn was used in a Christmas liturgy and is still used in various revised forms and languages in the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches and it has been beautifully rendered as Byzantine and Gregorian chants and as Mozart’s K198 Offertorio. 

In the hymn Mary is called the Theotokos, which literally means the God-bearer, but this is invariably and erroneously translated into Latin and other languages, including English, as Mother of God.

Mother of God.
The original Theotokos was Isis, mother of Horus who was the son of Osiris.  The term Theotokos was first used of Mary the mother of Jesus by Origen (whose name means Child of Horus) in 246 and its spread, thanks to Dionysius, patriarch of Alexandria, was all part of a battle to condemn the gnostics who accorded a special position to Mary Magdalene whom they identified with Sophia, that is Wisdom, whom the Egyptians identified in turn with Isis.

In the process of condemning the gnostics the Church defamed Mary Magdalene, turning her into a whore while they themselves identified Mary the mother of Jesus with Isis and raised her to the status of virgin and God-bearer.

And so we sing:
We fly to thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Click here for a polyphonic version of the hymn by Dimitri Bortniansky.

Michael Haag's Quest for Mary Magdalene will be published in Britain by Profile Books in March 2016 and in the United States by HarperCollins in May.