Sub Tuum Praesidium: The Most Ancient Marian Prayer

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This 3rd Century Marian prayer contains the roots of a central dogma and an enduring devotion.

The oldest known prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium. It was discovered in Egypt on a fragment of papyrus. It is believed the prayer dates back to mid-late 200's A.D.

The prayer follows:

We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

This ancient prayer holds the origins of a central Marian dogma, theotokos, and one of the most enduring Marian devotions, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

One of the great controversies in the early Church was a question. Is it more proper to speak of Mary as simply the mother of Jesus, or can she have as her title mother of God, theotokos (God bearer)? In 431 the Council of Ephesus agreed that giving Mary the title of mother of God affirmed the divinity of Jesus.

The devotion of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is best illustrated by an icon that has the boy Jesus running into his mother's arms with a look of concern on his face. As he ran to her a child to be protected from any danger, we are invited to seek her aid as well.


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Published August 15, 2003.