Sunday, 23 December 2012

Infant Mary in the temple and the song of Anna.

Apart from the canonical gospels, there are various non-canonical or apocryphal gospels. These gospels filled the gaps left by the normal gospels. For instance, almost nothing is told about the youth of Jesus, but in the apocryphal gospels we have lots of information. No need to say that as historical documents about Jesus these works are worthless, but as sources for the development of what we may call Volksfrömmigkeit (piety of the masses – some German words can capture a whole complex in one word) these writings are invaluable. One of them is the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, a work of about the late 6th early 7th century. It is based on older sources and some sources which have not been traced - maybe phantasies of the unknown author. If you wonder where the ox and the donkey in the stable come from, well you will them here and many other details too, like the young Jesus cursing a boy to death after he had destroyed the dams of sand made by Jesus. A few lines later young Jesus curses another boy to death, so all parents are pretty afraid of this young lad with mighty gifts!
The Pseudo-Matthew especially reflects and in its turn has influenced the divinisation of Mary. As is well-known, Christianity has no goddess - a shame I think, as there is nothing wrong with good-looking goddesses like Parvati, Artemis or Uma. In a world full of goddesses a religion without a goddess was unthinkable and Mary was quick to fill up this gap. In her iconography she resembles the Egyptian Isis and she was and is venerated at places where before goddesses were venerated. Pseudo-Matthew tells us about the birth and youth of Mary, which as she is a very virtuous girl, is rather boring: praising God all day and de facto being the first nun.
Anna, the mother of Mary and her husband Joachim are already at an advanced age and still have no children, actually Anna is too old to become pregnant, but then a miracle happens and she is pregnant from Joachim. They go to the temple and young Mary at the age of 3 years runs up the stairs in her desire to serve God. After this Anna praises the Lord in a song which mirrors the Magnificat,

Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew chapters 4 and 5

4. Post haec autem expletis mensibus novem  peperit Anna filiam, et vocavit eam Mariam. Quam cum tertio anno ablactasset, abierunt simul Ioachim et Anna uxor eius ad templum domini, hostias deo oblaturi, tradentes infantulam nomine Mariam in contubernio virginum,     in quo die et nocte virgines in dei laudibus permanebant. Quae cum posita esset ante foras templi, ita veloci cursu ascendit quindecim gradus ut penitus retrorsum non respicet, neque, ut solitum est infantiae, parentes requireret. Unde parentes eius solliciti uterque infantem requirentes, pariter ambo stupuerunt, quousque eam invenerunt in templo, ita ut et ipsi templi pontifices mirarentur.

expleo: to fill
pario peperi partum: to give birth
ablacto (1): to stop giving milk (non-classical Latin)
hostia: sacrifice
obfero –tuli –latum: to offer (oblaturi part.fut.)
contubernium: companionship
foras + gen.: outside
velox: quick, fast
cursus –us (m): pace
penitus: deeply, completely (non penitus: not at all)
retrorsum: backwards (non-classical Latin, it is a combination of retro and prorsum)
gradus -us (m): step
soleo solitum: to be wont, accustomed
require –sivi –situm: to look after, search for
unde: therefor
sollicitus: worried
pariter: in an equal degree
ambo: both
quousque: till finally

5. Tunc Anna repleta spiritu sancto in conspectu omnium dixit:
    Dominus deus omnipotens exercituum memor factus verbi sui
visitavit plebem suam in bona visitatione et sancta,
    ut gentes quae insurgebant in nos, corda eorum humiliet et ad se convertat:
aures suas precibus nostris aperuit:
    exclusit a nobis omnium exultationes inimicorum nostrorum.
Sterilis facta est mater,
    et genuit exultationem et laetitiam Israel.
Ecce posita munera offerre domino meo,
    et non potuerunt a me prohibere inimici mei.
Deus autem convertit cor eorum ad me,
    et ipse dedit mihi gaudium sempiternum.

repleo –plevi –pletum: to fill
Dominus exercituum: Lord of (heavenly) hosts.
memor factus verbi sui = memoravit verbum suum
auris –is (f): ear
prex precis (f): prayer
aperio aperui apertum: to open
excludo exclusi exclusum: to keep away, withhold
inimicus: enemy
gigno genui genitum: to produce, bring forth
laetitia: gladness, joy
Israel: dative!
munus muneris (n): gift
sempiternus: eternal


More about the Pseudo Matthew:

For those wanting to read the complete text:

Mosaic of Saint Anna and Saint Mary. I can't trace any information about this mosaic.

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