The Earliest Known Hymn to Our Lady Dates All the Way Back to A.D. 250
Lawrence OP, Flickr
Marian devotion is just an late medieval accretion to the faith, right?
In addition to the important place she is given in the Gospels in the New Testament, meditation on the unique importance of Mary’s role in salvation history (known as Mariology) dates back at least to the early 2nd century.
And the earliest known example of spiritual devotion to Our Lady dates all the way back to around A.D. 250. The Marian prayer is one you made have heard before: the famous Sub tuum.
Here’s an English translation of that prayer:
We turn to you for protection,
O Holy Mother of God,
Listen to our prayers and help us in our needs,
Save us from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
Written originally in Greek, it was used in the 3rd century Coptic Orthodox Christmas liturgy. Amazingly, it is still used today in the Coptic liturgy, as well as the Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman liturgies.
Regarding the dating, note that the A.D. 250 origin date is simply the earliest point to which we can date this prayer. That doesn’t mean this prayer didn’t exist earlier, and it doesn’t mean there weren’t other Marian devotions in use. But what this shows is that explicit Marian devotion has existed at least since A.D. 250.
Also note that the A.D. 250 origin date puts the practice of Marian devotion two decades before Emperor Constantine (b. 272, made emperor in 306) was even born, let alone made emperor. That should put to rest the tired trope that Marian devotion was the result of Constantine bringing pagan ideas and practices into the Church.
Marian devotion can be traced firmly back to the early Church. So in our times of need, let us confidently call upon Our Lady, the Mother of Our Savior Jesus Christ!