Severus (459-538), Bishop of Antioch, has some phenomenal statements in regard to the uniqueness of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although he is only venerated by the Coptic/Egyptian Church, the Jacobite Syriac church, and the Armenian Church, his Mariological teaching adds the unique quality of showing forth how ecumenical this way of teaching on Mary truly was even outside from the Chalcedonian-Orthodox and Latin/Papal West , both of which are usually considered the majority bodies taking up the narrative of Christianity in the first ten centuries. In other words, we need not refer to the Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic sources to find an abundance of high-Mariology, and thus the root of this teaching must precede the severance of these Eastern churches, and thus shows the certainty of its antiquity.
Severus, born in Sozopolis, studied the Christian faith in Alexandria, Egypt, and was therefore exposed to a variety of sources in such a great cultural center. He was also a monastic and a founder of a monastery near Gaza, Palestine. In 512, he was consecrated Patriarch of Antioch.
In this first citation, we see the close proximity which Severus puts the Lord Christ in relation to the Virgin as Mother of God :
“When a man looks at you, O Mother of God and Virgin, and at the divine mystery that came about in you by a miracle, he closes himself in silence because of the unspeakbleness of it and, fully of wonder, is moved to offer praises because of the greatness of the One who loved us in such a great way” (Ottoeco, Hymn 120; PO 6, 159-60)
Here, the Virgin Mary is compared to the Burning Bush where God filled it with fire, only this time the Mother of God, by virtue of giving human nature to the 2nd member of the holy Trinity, is the God-bearer. The language here will surely illustrate something profoundly distinctive of Patristic Marian thought.
“When I turn my gaze to the Virgin Mother of God and try to sketch a simple thought about her, I immediately seem to hear a voice coming from God and crying loudly in my ears, ‘Do not come near. Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground’. Truly we must free our minds from every mortal and carnal imagining, as if removing sandals from our feet, when our minds attempt to raise themselves to the contemplation of divine things. But what sort of thing could we contemplate that is more divine or greater than the Mother of God? Drawing near to her is like drawing near to holy ground and reaching heaven” (Homily 67; PO 8, 349-50)
Meditation and contemplation of the Virgin causes us to live out our lives in holiness.
“She is the leaven of our new creation, the root of the true vine whose branches we have become, by virtue of the germination proper to baptism. She is the point of arrival of the reconciliation of God with men, on which occasion the angels sang: ‘Glory to God in the Highest heaven; peace on earth and good will toward men’. For this reason the recollection of the Virgin wakes up our souls, making them consider how, by his intervention, we have been called from such a great irreconcilable enmity, from a situation of war, so to speak, to such a great peace, to divine familiarity, to a marvelous association” (Homily 67; PO 8, 364-65)
Praying to the Virgin to request intercession is there also.
“We implore her who is the Birthgiver of God and pray her to intercede for us, she who is honored by all the Saints” (Ottoeco, Hymn 118; PO 6, 157)
“More than the other Saints, she is able to life up prayers for us, and we glory to have obtained her as the ornament of our race” (Homily 14, 18; PO 38, 413)
“She is honored by all saints: by the Patriarchs, because it was She who received the glorious blessing they promised; by the Prophets, who of old had foretold him many times in divers ways; by the Apostles, who preached [him]; by the Martyrs, who found in him a teacher amid their struggles, the presenter of their crowns, and the reason for their sufferings. We too praise him; he, for the sake of the salvation and life of our race, wrought and brought everything to completion in wisdom” (Ottoeco, Hymn 118; PO 6, 157-58)
Lastly, considering her unique and sinless holiness as a member of the fallen human race, Severus writes:
“She formed part of the human race and was of the same essence as we, although she was pure from all taint and immaculate” (St. Severus, Hom., cathedralis, 67, PO, 8, 350)
All English translations taken from Dr. Luigi Gamebero’s “Mary and the Church Fathers”.