The Oldest Known Prayer To Mary

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While many Protestants claim that the devotion to, and veneration of, Our Lady is a novelty developed by Papists in the Middle Ages, nothing can be further from the truth.

An ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Sub Tuum Praesidium”, is the oldest known prayer to Our Lady asking her intercession, older than even the Hail Mary itself. The hymn has long been chanted in both the Western and Eastern Churches. But the antiquity of this prayer is attested to discoveries of a 3rd Egyptian Papyrus.

Likely written during the persecution of Valerian or of Decius, the prayer shows the early Church, in grave danger, confidently asking for the protection of the Virgin Mary.

The oldest known copy was published in 1938 by C.H. Roberts (cf. Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library, III, Theological and literacy Texts, Manchester 1938, pp. 46-47). His colleague E. Lobel dated the fragment to the 3rd century, likely between the years 250-280.

One significant element is that it shows early Christians using the term “Theotokos” or “Mother of God” centuries before the Council of Ephesus in 431. It also shows that, despite the claims of some Protestants, Christians were directly praying to Mary for her intercession and protection.

Under your patronage we take refuge Holy Mother of God!

The text of the prayer:

Latin
Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
Amen.

English
Under your patronage we take refuge
Holy Mother of God; our petitions,
do not despise in necessities,
but of all dangers deliver us always
glorious Virgin & Blessed.

Comments

47 COMMENTS

  1. Where in our bible …The official word of God…does it say anywhere that anyone including Mother Mary can make intersession for us.. The bible is very very clear that JESUS IS OUR ONLY INTERSESSOR TO THE FATHER… WE PRAY TO THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF THE SON…We can pray for each other and ask JESUS to intersede for us or them …JESUS IS THE WAY ,,THE LIGHT AND THE TRUTH.. NOBODY CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME….PLEASE GIVE CHAPTER AND VERSE WHERE ANY OTHER IN OUR BIBLE IS THE INTERSSESSOR…

    • Virginia you realize your error in saying we can pray for each other here on earth but you refute the idea we can ask Mary to pray for us.

      • Yes thats coz we pray for each other who are alive. We dont pray to each other by bowing or kneeling down. Thats the difference. We as Catholics say, we dont worship Mary, but what do you call kneeling & bowing down to her? People recite rosarsy day & night but do not say any prayers or try to communicate with their Heavenly Father? Remember Jesus said, I am the way.. He is the only way to the Father. You need to know & understand the Bible better to know the truth yourself. The disciples prayed WITH Mary not TO Mary. Jesus gave Mary to John, not ALL his disciples saying She is your Mother. Theres a reason why he did that. Read the scripture to understand and ask God for revelation. I pray that the truth be revealed to all as it has to many Catholics around the world.

        • Not all bowing is worship. Bowing is also a sign of respect. For example, it’s still customary in some cultures to bow instead of handshakes as a greeting. When meeting the Queen of England, British are expected to bow or curtsy. The Rosary includes the Apostles Creed, Our Father, and Glory Be prayers as well as the Hail Mary. During the Rosary, we meditate (think about) important events in the life of Jesus such as His birth, first miracle, baptism, etc. So praying the Rosary is praying to our Heavenly Father.
          When we pray to God we worship Him, but when we pray to Mary or the Saints, we are simply communicating with them with great respect because of who they are, the lives they led, and the role models are for us. The Catholic Church teaches us to never lose sight of that important distinction – the teachings are very clear. We always pray to our Heavenly Father but we also ask others to pray for us here on earth and in Heaven.
          I understand that it might LOOK like we are worshiping Mary because we do hold her in sigh high esteem, but we don’t. What matters is the intention of the person praying, not whether or not they bow or kneel during prayer.

        • “Ask God for revelation”…. That’s what Protestants have being doing ever since the 16th century every time they have read their bibles. But unfortunately, since each Protestant interprets scripture on their own without the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, what has happened as a result are thousands of different Protestant churches with different teachings on salvation, baptism, the Eucharist, predestination, eternal security, etc… etc…And as far as praying the rosary, l pray it every day and also talk to God the Father. We Catholics go by scripture and Sacred Tradition. Jesus is the only way to Heaven, yes, but we ask the saints in Heaven to pray for us because they are part of the Body of Christ. They are the spirits of the just made perfect in the Heavenly Jerusalem, as the Book of Hebrews says. Honoring them and asking for their prayers in no way cancels Jesus’s salvific mediatorship. I tell Protestants to go to the Catholic Answers website and to also read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn what the Catholic Church really teaches instead of listening to all the anti Catholic fundamentalist Protestant nonsense out there.

        • She was his mother need I say more Queen of heaven you will see the truth and all you missed one day my prayers are for you

        • The word “pray” and worship are NOT synonymous. In Webster’s Dictionary the definition is that the origin, “precare’ means to ask, to implore, or beseech (think Shakespearean English: “I pray thee, grant thy servant leave, Your Magisty.”) Webster’s definition of “worship” is: “reverence or devotion for a deity” as the first meaning. Mary is not a goddess. We do not worship her as our Creator. She is a creature just like us. She IS our spiritual mother according to grace. The passage you are referring to doesn’t name John specifically. It says “the disciple whom He loved.” The Catholic Church through the teaching Magisterium, taught by the power and authority given to her by Jesus Christ, that Jesus not only gave his mother to John (because Jesus had no other brothers and sister to take care of her) but he also gave Mary to humanity and likewise Jesus gave humanity to her. But not a nameless, faceless mass, but each single individual, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Also please remember that the Canon of Scripture was not put together and organized as we have it to day until 300 years AFTER the death of Christ. That is why we as Catholics don’t just go by “sola scriptura”. There is also the oral Tradition and the Magisterium that both guarded and passed down the Faith. Who decided what was to be included in the canon??? The Catholic Church. Also remember that not all that Jesus did or every single occurrence is contained in the Scriptures. The same “beloved disciple” in verse 25 in the final chapter of his Gospel says “But there were also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Also you might want to check for Old Testament support for the role of Mary as Queen and what that position is all about. Look at 1 Kings 2:13-20. The queen was not a wife to the king, but the mother of the king, as in those days a king could have multiple wives. The “Queen Mother” had the power to intercede for her subjects and to influence the King on their behalf. Mary ALWAYS points to her Son: “do what ever He tells you” is what she told the servants at the wedding at Cana. Was she only speaking to them?

        • The Saints aren’t dead!!! Check out Revelation 4, 5:8-14, 6:9-11, 7:9-12. In one of the Psalms the psalmist writes about the dead not being able to praise God. How can that be? When we end this earthly life and go before God, how can we not praise Him? The psalmist must have been talking about something else, like those who are eternally separated from God, those who are in Hell. If you are in the presence of Eternal Life you are going to be even more alive than we are!

    • First, Our Bible is a matter of Sacred Tradition. The reason that we have the books that we do, and no others, is that the authority of the Church said so. God did not write the Bible the way He did the 10 Commandments, with a fiery finger. He used the Church to do that. That same church, by the same authority has done other things. That being said, Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich man, in which the dead still desire to make intercession on behalf of the living. (Luke 16.) Then, Revelation 8: talks about the prayers of the saints rising up to God like incense. But, there is a logic to asking folks to pray for you, and thus, why not ask folks who are already in heaven to pray for you? We look to Mary because of her perfect devotion to JESUS, not for her own merits. We respect and venerate her perfect submission to God, not as a goddess. She is an example to follow, and she is more ALIVE than we are. She is actually WITH JESUS in a physical way. Of course we pray TO Jesus, and we pray WITH His mother, exactly like the Apostles did.

      • Amen?? And I want to add that Mary is a gift to us from Christ himself. She is a heavenly intercesor that brings us closer to Christ. The better we know Mary, the better we know ourselves, and our Lord. She is his mother. Christ calls on us to reach out to Mary. Mary isn’t the only way to know Jesus better, but it is a way. We have many gifts from God to know him better. Mary is one of those gifts??.

      • If you are thinking that somehow Jesus is here disrespecting his own mother (how can the Second Person of the Trinity break His own Commandment, “Honor thy Father and thy Mother”?) and basically telling her “Who do you think you are talking to, lady? Don’t you know who I am?” You are mistaken. Jesus is speaking of the deeper reality of his Passion and Death on the Cross, that was yet to come, but that would be initiated by his public display of miracles. Also the “wine” i.e. His Blood, that would be poured out for the whole of humanity. The term Jesus uses “woman” refers to the “woman” back in Genesis 3:15. Mary is the “New Eve”. Just as sin and death came into the world through Adam, and Jesus is the “New Adam” who brings Eternal Life, Mary is the “New Eve” who is sinless and said “yes” to God her whole life. It is through her that God the Father saw fit to bring Salvation into the world. God Himself entrusted Himself to Mary in the person of Jesus. She is that “woman” who crushes the Serpent’s head. This is one of the Devil’s greatest tactics is to have gotten people to dismiss Mary and to even despise her. He is so prideful that he cannot stand that a little 14 year old girl crushed him by saying “yes” to God.

    • Shut up, and let people believe things. Clearly you’re a non Catholic who came to a Catholic website to stir up trouble. Kind of like the unwashed Hillbillies at Westburo Baptist. You’re showing your hand.

      • Telling people to ‘shut up’ is not making an argument and shows you are incredibly rude. People come for many different reason mostly following links elsewhere. I saw the article linked on my twitter timeline so came to read it. If you are indicative of catholic attitudes I doubt many will be attracted to explore further.

    • It is indeed true that some Catholics have, and do, over-emphasise the role of devotion to the Virgin Mother of God in their prayer life. But it is a truth of the Christian Faith that God chose Mary to be the woman through whom Jesus Christ took his humanity. It is said in the Gospel of John at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, when the wine had run out, that Mary brought it to the attention of her son, Jesus (John 2:1-12). In reply to Jesus’ response to her, Mary said: “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary is silent all through the Gospels but she is present “pondering everything in her heart.” We can pray for one another as Virginia (see the above) says and why won’t Mary pray for us just as she requested her son, Jesus, to help with the wine which had run out? The Gospels do not give a day to day account of the activity of Jesus (John 21:24-25). God chose Mary to be the mother of the Word made flesh. After the birth of Jesus, did that just stop there? Must we limit the role of Mary in the life of the Christian? Mary, the mother of Jesus was with the disciples as they awaited Pentecost (Acts 1:14). God chose Mary. He gave her a role when he chose her. Her role comes from the truth that God chose her to be the mother of his Son. God did not throw her away after that. The relationship persisted and she will always be the Mother of Jesus Christ and our mother too. Yes, we pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit and, like us, Mary prays that way too and for us “the banished children of Eve” until we join her after passing through “this vale of tears.”
      Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

    • There are a lots of things not is the Bible but this is like man other items is supported and is the Tradition of the Church.

      By the way the Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit decided what was the BIBLE.

      This actually pre-dates the compilation of the New Testament. So you are right it is not in the Bible.

      I am sure you ask people to pray for you and with you? Why not Mary?

  2. mama mary is the best person to intercede to her son jesus on ouur behalf and jesus gives his mother all the graces and blessings and power and glory and honor to do this as she is always at his side especially in times of turmoil and her request on ouur behaldf never goes un answered. pray daily to mary and let the rosary be the phoneline to jesus .u will not be disappointed. he answers her prayers and i trust her intercession. ame amen and amen.

    • The Blessed Virgin Mary is known as
      Mediatrix or Co-Redemptrix as she has a
      a special role in the plan of salvation. She
      leads us to her son and is the quickest way to Jesus. You should read more about the
      Mary the mother of God(with Jesus) and as the daughter of God(The Father) and spouse of God (of The Holy Spirit) so you will understand better and learn more about Mary, The Immaculate Conception. She is no ordinary woman but “truly Blessed” among all women.

  3. I learned a prayer in 8 th grade some 25+ years ago very similar. We flight to your patronage oh Virgin mother of God despise on Our prayers and our needs but protect us from all dangers since you alone are pure and blessed oh most virgin Mary mother of Christ our God accept our prayers and present them to your son for the sake of you he enlightened and saved our souls amen

  4. The reasoning in this article is fallacious. Early Christian belief in a doctrine does not automatically make it sound, Biblical doctrine. Arius lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries and believed Jesus wasn’t divine. There were many who called themselves Christians who followed him, but that doesn’t make his teachings correct.
    Also, there are numerous Biblical passages which refute the doctrine of the intersection of Mary and the saints and absolutely nothing to support it.
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gotquestions.org/amp/prayer-saints-Mary.html?client=ms-android-att-us

    • It may be fallacious. But that is the entire basis of the reformation in the words of the reformers themselves. To get back to what early christians believed and practiced before the roman papacy.

      So if you reject that as fallacious, then you also have to reject the basis for protestantism. In which case it would not make sense to be a protestant

    • Christ Himself taught us to pray directly to the Father.. in the OUR FATHER. Do you find any mention of Christ interceding in the Lord’ Prayer? Secondly, it doesn’t also follow that if a Christian practice is not found in the Bible, then the practice must be abandoned because it is unbiblical.

    • 1. What is not in the bible is not necessarily unbibical.
      2. The early Christian practice of prayer to the saints has been continued by subsequent Christians. The sense of the faith of Christians flowing in the direction of a tradition holds sway in determining acceptable dictrines. That of Arius and his followers was not even in line with apostolic tradition and thus was rightly condemned.
      3. The Lord’s prayer (Our Father) doesn’t mention anything about going thru Christ first. In fact, it is addressed directly to the Father. Is it unbliblical? Again, what is not in the bible is not necessarily unbiblical.

  5. And those “Christians” who followed Arius were no longer inside the Church. They took themselves out because they became part of the Arian heresy. Arianism was not Church doctrine.

  6. That Got Questions? site is very anti-Catholic. Jesus did not give the Apostles a Bible when He told them to go out and make desciples of all men because the Bible as we kniw it didn’t exist. It wasn’t put together yet. And who was it that put the different books of the Bible together? It was the one true Church of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church.

  7. Mother is always mother Bible Says Mary Gave birth to Jesus and St. Joseph is Jesus’s foster father. Jesus Being God could have come to earth without being born. But as God to be Born as a human is possible only to be born from a mother and Jesus was with is mother till e was thirty. Catholics do not adore Mother Mary but we intercede mothers help because she is given a place in heaven to unite Gods people and pray for them. She is humbly doing this work. Will any human will not honour his mother or will not be a devotee of his mother. So Gods mother has to be our mother too, is int it? We cannot forgo truth just for the sake of some selfish interpretation.

    • I love Mary the Mother. Presumably, it was Mary who wrapped Jesus in his swaddling clothes, fed him from her breasts till he could eat solids, changed his diapers, bathed him, taught him to walk, comforted him when he was teething, rocked him to sleep and tucked him in at night. It might not be in the Bible, but it’s what mothers do. As you say, Jesus didn’t have to be born of a woman, he could have appeared fully grown in a flash of light, armed and powerful. Instead, he came into the world as we all do and grew up the same way, and Mary was his mom.

  8. It is not our perishable body that prays, but the everlasting soul in us that prays. Our souls are indestructible. When we can pray for each other in this world, i.e. our souls can communicate with or for each other now, what is the difficulty in understanding that the venerable souls of those not on earth now can definitely pray for us ? If we can ask our friends or relatives to pray for us now , what’s wrong in asking the Bl Virgin Mary or any other saints to pray for us? The same applies to our prayers on behalf of the departed too.

  9. It is wherry interesting to read about the conversion of St. Lucia (283 – 304). When her mother got gravely ill, she went in despair, but she had heard that several miracles had occur to people that had prayed at the shrine of St. Agnes, when they had asked her to pray for them; and St. Lucia went to her shrine, and asked St. Agnes to pray for her mother; and when she came home her mother was healed. St. Lucia then devoted her life for Christ, and became one of our greatest saints. As we can see here it is and old practice, and it has its origin in the judaism, and manny jude`s still today practice this costume.

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