Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tenny Thomas - The Mother of God: Perceptions of the Theotokos in the Hymns & Homilies of Severus of Antioch


The Theotokos plays an important role in the writings, particularly in understanding the Christology of Severus of Antioch, as she stands for the integrity and reality of the humanity of the incarnate Word. She is the subject of a sustained theological reflection on the part of a great many Fathers, even during the period of the Christological controversy. Severus’ writings clearly show her to be more than an incidental figure in the description of a truly Orthodox Christology. The hymns and homilies of Severus of Antioch are an interesting source of insight into the process of Christological reflection on the person of the Theotokos. The method employed by this study will be to consider each of those hymns and homilies, which refer to the Theotokos, and determine how Severus wishes to use each reference.

The hymns of Severus have been translated into English in volumes 6 and 7 of the Patrologia Orientalis by E.W. Brooks. I will be editing the translation for this paper.
There are six hymns in the collection, which are categorized by the ancient transcribers as Hymns on the Holy God-bearer, while there are also 15 hymns on the Nativity and Incarnation, which also have some reference to the Theotokos. Severus never seems to allow the poetic touches of his hymns to diminish the strict application of his Cyrilline theology to the task of composing hymns. In the first hymns in the collection the Theotokos is referred to only in rather general terms in relation to the Incarnation. Even in the later hymns in the collection she is always placed in a theological context rather than simply a poetic or hagiographic one. In the Cathedral Homilies, Severus addresses the Theotokos as prophetess, and as apostle, and as martyr. Severus goes on to detail the role of Mary in salvation history. Severus uses the incarnation through the Virgin to attack Apollinarianism and Nestorianism. The translations of the Cathedral Homilies XIV and LXVII on the Theotokos will be my own.

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