During the Babylonian exile, Ezekiel experienced a vision in which the glory of Yahweh appeared and a voice described the details of the restored Temple: "This gate will be kept shut. No one will open it or go through it, since Yahweh the God of Israel has been through it. And so it must be kept shut" ( Ezk. 44:2). In patristic exegesis this passage is seen as a "type" of Mary's perpetual virginity, as in a homily by Amphilochius of Iconium ( PG 39.49A). Romanos works a number of other intertestamental parallels into this kontakion: David's well (1.5-6); Sarah's tract of land (3.7); Balaam's star (5.1-10); Daniel Persian fire ( 13.7-8); Zephaniah's prophecy ( 15.2-6); the guiding pillar, manna, and rock-water of the Exodus (18.9 to 19.3-4); Habakkuk's mission to Daniel ( 20.8); and Abel's sacrifice ( 21.7-8).
In my translation of two lines at the end of Mary's affirmation of Joseph's loyalty ( 11.7-8), I consciously preserve a subsurface allusion to the burning bush that Moses saw (Ex. 3:2):
The fiery apparition of the night completely convinced this thorny man to reject the doubts torturing him.
Petersen has pointed out that thorns appear as "a symbol of the earth, of humanity in its fallenness" in the poetry of Ephraem. Thus, he finds a direct influence of the Syriac text of these works on Romanos' diction here and elsewhere: "thorny" = "mortal, with human doubts." 2 This conclusion is plausible, but there is no reason to deny the correlative possibility of an ingenious, subtextual echo of the Septuagint here, especially since the angel who spoke to Joseph was "a fiery apparition" appropriate to a Sinaitic type.
I. Today the Virgin gives birth to the supersubstantial one. Earth offers a cave to the unapproachable one.