Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Mary B. Cunningham - The Theme of Intercession in Middle Byzantine Texts on the Virgin Mary

This paper will examine a number of texts, both liturgical and hagiographical, that celebrate Mary the Theotokos in the middle Byzantine period. Following the institution of Marian feasts between the sixth and eighth centuries, preachers and hymnographers produced a wealth of liturgical material, all of which elaborates her importance for theological and devotional reasons. It was also during this period that a separate hagiographical tradition began to be established; this uses similar exegetical techniques to those employed in the liturgical tradition, but it is less inhibited with regard to its use of both apocryphal sources and dramatic imagination. One interesting representative of this genre, a ninth-century Life of the Virgin Mary attributed to the monk Epiphanios of the Kallistratos Monastery in Constantinople, remains largely unstudied by scholars. Using a variety of sources, including this Life as well as sermons and hymns, my paper will examine the theme of intercession in this formative period. Whereas scholars have noticed a growth in Byzantine references to Mary’s intercessory power from the late sixth century onward, there has so far been no detailed study of the development of this preoccupation with regard to specific contexts or genres. The paper will attempt to trace how individual authors between the seventh and ninth centuries depict the Virgin’s role as intercessor and to determine whether trends in the use of this theme are discernable. On the basis of work carried out so far, it appears that certain liturgical writers, such as Germanos of Constantinople, and genres, such as hagiography and miracle stories, emphasise Mary’s protective and mediating qualities more than do others. It is even possible that controversy arose in the course of the eighth and ninth centuries concerning the extent to which apocryphal sources should be used and appeals to the Virgin’s intercessory powers should be invoked. 

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