O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Should I compare you to the fertile earth and its fruits? You surpass them, for it is written: “The earth is my footstool” (Is 66:1). But you carry within you the feet, the head, and the entire body of the perfect God.
If I say that heaven is exalted, yet it does not equal you, for it is written: “Heaven is my throne” (ibid.), while you are God’s place of repose. If I say that the angels and archangels are great—but you are greater than them all, for the angels and archangels serve with trembling the One who dwells in your womb, and they dare not speak in his presence, while you speak to him freely.
If we say that the cherubim are great, you are greater than they, for the cherubim carry the throne of God (cf. Ps 80:1; 99:1), while you hold God in your hands. If we say that the seraphim are great, you are greater than them all, for the seraphim cover their faces with their wings (cf. Is 6:2), unable to look upon the perfect glory, while you not only gaze upon his face but caress it and offer your breasts to his holy mouth….
As for Eve, she is the mother of the dead, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Eve took from the tree and made her husband eat of it along with her. And so they ate of that tree of which God had told them: “The day you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen 2:17). Eve took from it, ate some of it, and gave some to her husband with her. He ate of it, and he died.
In you, instead, O wise Virgin, dwells the Son of God: he, that is, who is the tree of life. Truly he has given us his body, and we have eaten of it. That is how life came to all, and all have come to life by the mercy of God, your beloved Son. That is why your spirit is full of joy in God your Savior!
St. Athanasius, Fourth Century Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, ed. T. Lefort, in Le Muséon 71 (1958): 216-217.