May 19, 2016

The Virgin Mary is Prefigured by the Burning Bush

Orthodox icon of the burning bush
As we celebrate this month dedicated to our Lady, here is an article from our archive for your consideration. [Originally published in February 2013 as "Mary is the New Burning Bush".]

In Exodus 3:1-2 it is written:
Meanwhile Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.
The theophany of the burning bush, in which God appeared to Moses, did not immolate itself. Not so much as a leaf was singed. This is a miracle precisely because the conflagration failed to scorch, burn or otherwise disfigure the plant. Moses was rightly amazed. So too, throughout Scripture, whenever God intervenes in human affairs the people He touches are neither disrespected or compromised. Moreover, God, the source of love and life, created us as rational beings. When acting on the human stage, He never violates our free will.

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ. While consenting to be the God bearer, in no way was her freedom or her personhood violated. This was also true in regard to her physical virginity. God never destroys His chosen instruments. The virginity of Mary was protected even in giving birth to our Savior. This might seem like an impossibility, however, nothing is impossible for God. Not burning bushes that remain intact. Not virgin births. Not Resurrection after death. Mary was preserved physically just like the burning bush.

Having completed the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. The stain of sin did not touch her, therefore, the specter of physical decay could not effect her. In the threefold preservation of her free will, her perpetual virginity and her miraculous assumption, Mary, the most holy Theotokos, is the new burning bush.

These hymns from the Orthodox Church celebrate the miracle of the burning bush as a prefiguration of the virgin childbirth of Mary.

Troparion – (Tone 1)

The miracle that Moses witnessed on Sinai in the burning bush
Foretold your virgin childbearing, O pure Mother.
We the faithful cry to you:
Rejoice, O truly living bush!
Rejoice, O holy mountain!
Rejoice, O sanctified expanse and most holy Theotokos!  

Kontakion (Tone 4)

You showed Moses, O Christ God,
An image of your most pure Mother
In the bush that burned yet was not consumed,
For she herself was not consumed,
When she received in her womb the fire of divinity!
She remained incorrupt after her pure childbearing!
By her prayers, O greatly merciful One,
Deliver us from the flame of passions,

And preserve your people from all harm!

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