Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:10-17 – 1st Old Testament reading from Vespers for the Nativity of the Theotokos)
St Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on the Genesis account of Jacob using a rock for a pillow, connects the rock to Christ:
Now once the people of God through faith have come to rest upon Christ, who is ‘a choice stone, a precious cornerstone,’ (Isaiah 28: 16) for this, I believe, is what is indicated by the act of sleeping upon the stone, we then learn that they will not be alone upon the earth, but they will have the holy angels, traversing up and down, as their assistance in helpers. For in one place Christ said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, from now on you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man‘ (John 1:51). This is, I believe, the ladder – the passing up and down of the holy spirits, ‘sent to serve for the sake of those who shall inherit the Kingdom‘ (Hebrews 1:14). Christ is stood firm on the top of the ladder, while those holy spirits come up to him, having him as their overseer, not that he is one of their kind, but is God and Lord. (GLAPHYRA ON THE PENTATEUCH, p 194)
For Cyril, the ladder Jacob dreams about is not Christ, but leads up to Christ. It is interesting that later tradition will connect the ladder to the Theotokos and this scripture lesson is read at several of the Feasts of the Theotokos. Interesting because Cyril who is the patristic saint who championed calling Mary the Theotokos does not mention the Virgin Mary in his commentary upon Jacob and Genesis 28. He doesn’t make the connection between Jacob’s ladder and Mary but clearly connects the ladder of Jacob’s dream to Christ. Mary will be connected later in history to this biblical narrative – her connection will be because of her relationship to her Son, the Lord Jesus. Through the Theotokos, we come to Christ.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!