Saint Anthony's Monastery, Egypt

Saint Anthony’s Monastery, Egypt

During the notorious persecution led by the Roman Emperor Decius in 250 A.D. against Christianity, the monks in Egypt popularized a hymn to the Virgin Mary begging for her protection.  Originally in Greek, the hymn has come down to us in the West under its Latin title “Sub Tuum Presidium”.  The earliest manuscript with this prayer is the John Rylands papyrus 470, in a collection at the University of Manchester.

john-rylands-papyrus-470-sub-tuum-prayer-Univ-Manchester

Below are the original forms of the prayer and their translations:

Greek Text English Translation
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.              
Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God (“Theotokos”):
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.
Red Monastery Church, near Sohag, Egypt

Red Monastery Church, near Sohag, Egypt

Latin Text English Translation
Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.                                       

As Christians we have seen the open persecution of ancient communities of believers develop over the past five years…most especially in the lands which first received the Gospel itself.  Our sisters in Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza / Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Syria have all seen the effects of this persecution in those they serve and in the Christian community at large.  Now, beyond even these attacks on Christians, we now witness new levels of violence and war across the region.

It is time for people of good will everywhere are called to join in praying for world peace.  Reading the daily news, we can all commit to greater prayer not only for an end to the extreme brutality and violence taking place in the Middle East, but in response to increased tensions globally.

Perhaps as in early times, we may invoke the protection and power of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Mercy, to intercede, to calm angers, to forge reconciliation, and aid us in the work of achieving the miracle of peace.

via historyofinformation.com / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons / ChurchPOP

via historyofinformation.com / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons / ChurchPOP

Below is a short video of one of our sisters singing in Arabic the classic Marian plea for aid, the “Sub Tuum Praesidium” / “Bajo Tu Amparo” (its Spanish title) .

NB: Sr. Guadalupe was among the first missionary sisters from Argentina who came to the Middle East twenty years ago (1996-2016).  Today those first missionary sisters from Argentina have been joined by Italian and Peruvian missionaries as well as the many local Arab Christian vocations from Egypt and Jordan.

Remembering our persecuted brothers and sisters, we also note the new book of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, To the Martyrs: The Supreme Christian Sacrifice (2015), with a forward by Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, as a way of meditating on the demands of the Christian life as experienced by martyrs throughout the centuries and in our own times.

Let us pray in earnest for peace, especially during this Year of Mercy.  May Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach us how to follow her Son “into the way of peace.”