My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 8th of September, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the Nativity of the VIRGIN MARY (Mariam).
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
THY NATIVITY, O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole world;
for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our
God, annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing, abolishing death
and granting us life everlasting.
Kontakion Hymn of the Feast. Fourth Tone
JOACHIM and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness, and
Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, O immaculate one, by thy
holy Nativity, which thy people, redeemed from the guilt of offenses,
celebrate by crying to thee: The barren woman giveth birth to the
Theotokos, the nourisher of our life.
MARY (Mariam), the child of God and Theotokos, whose Nativity the Church commemorates on the 8th of September, was born to her aged parents Joachim and Anna. Saint Andrew of Crete A.D. 660-740) chants, "O Bride of the Father, immaculate Mother of the Son, and holy and resplendent Temple of the Holy Spirit; O Most Chaste of all creation, Most suitable to His ultimate purpose, on this account the universe was created, and by thy birth was the eternal will of the Creator fulfilled."
Saint Andrew of Crete also comments, "This day is for us the beginning of all holy days. It is the door to kindness and truth." He adds: "Let both the barren and mothers dance for joy; make bold and leap up in gladness, O ye childless: for the barren and childless woman brings forth the Theotokos, who is to deliver Eve from her pains in travail and Adam from the curse" [Genesis 3:16-19].
Saint Gregory Palamas (+ 1359) comments that "for her sake, the God-possessed Prophets pronounced prophesies, and miracles are wrought to foretell that future great miracle of the world, the Ever-virgin Mother of God. Generation after generation of vicissitudes and historical events make a path to their ultimate destination, to the new mystery that will be wrought in her. The rites and laws had provided beforehand a type of the future truth of the Spirit. The end, or rather the beginning and root, of those earlier events and wonders of God, is the annunciation to Joachim and Anna, who were accomplished in the virtues, of what was to be accomplished (in their daughter)." In another homily, he comments, "All divinely-inspired Scripture was written for the sake of the Virgin who begat God."
Israel as a community was not to give birth to the Messiah by means of natural generation, that is, by man’s seed. By natural means, they would produce the Virgin-mother, who is the beauty and excellency of Israel. The Prophets prophesied of her, yet most Israelites were unaware that they were awaiting the birth of a virgin daughter from their stock who, VIRGINALLY, WITHOUT FATHER, WOULD BRING THE Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God and Only-begotten of His Father without mother.
In the hymns of this feast, Saint Stephen of the holy city chants that Eve declares her daughter and descendant blessed, "For unto me is born deliverance, through which I shall be set free from the bonds of Hades."
Old Testament types clearly manifest the Virgin Mary; for, "She is the Fountain of Life that gushes forth from the flinty rock" [Exodos 17:6]; she is the Bush [Exodos 3:2] springing from barren ground and burning with the immaterial fire that cleanses and enlightens our souls." Saint John of Damascus adds to this, chanting, "Inspired by God, the divine choir (the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament) spoke of thee in prophecy as the Mountain [Daniel 2:45], the Gate of heavens [Ezekiel 44:2], and the Spiritual Ladder [Genesis 28:12-17]; for out of thee was hewn a stone, and cut by the hand of man; and thou art the pure through which passed the Lord of wonders, the God of our Fathers."
The Ninth-century hymnographer, Sergios of the holy city wrote: "She is the treasure of virginity, the rod of Aaron [Numbers 17:8] springing from the root of Jesse, the preaching of the Prophets, an offshoot of the righteous Joachim and Anna. She is born, and with her is the world becomes new again. She is the Holy Temple, the King, wherein was accomplished the marvelous mystery of the ineffable union of the natures which come together in Christ."
Nevertheless, as the following hymn affirms, "Although by the will of God other women who were barren have brought forth famous offspring, yet among all such children Mary has shone most brightly with divine glory."
After nine months, Anna brought forth. She said to the midwife, "What have I brought forth?" And she told her, "A girl." Then Anna said, "My soul has been magnified this day." And she laid her down. When the days of her purification had been fulfilled, and Anna was purified, she called her name Mary (Miriam in Hebrew, Mariam in Greek), in accordance with the prophecy uttered by the Archangel."
The Virgin’s Birthplace
A discrepancy exists as to the place of her birth. Some apocryphal accounts speak of Nazareth as the home of her parents; others claim that the house of Joachim was located near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. This latter point is confirmed by Saint Sophronios and further certified by Saint John of Damascus. Thus, her Jerusalem home might have been very convenient to the Temple. We read in the latter’s sermon on her birth that "the Mother of God was born to us in the holy Sheep Gate. Rejoice, O Sheep Gate, the Most Holy Temple of God’s Mother! Rejoice, O Sheep Gate, the wall of Joachim’s sheep!" It is also possible that a man as wealthy an Joachim had residences in both Judaea and Galilee.
In holy icons depicting the Virgin being caressed by her parents, it was intended to show the infant before the incident of her first steps. She is usually shown inclining toward her mother for the parental kiss, though in the mosaic at the monastery church of Kariye Djami, the child is about to be kissed by Joachim, while she places her hand on the face of her mother."
The child grew and increased in strength daily. When Mary was about nine months old, Anna set her on the ground to see whether her daughter could stand. Mary indeed walked seven steps and came again to her mother. Anna then picked her up. Anna had made her daughter’s bedchamber into a holy place, a sanctuary, permitting nothing common or unclean to pass through Mary. Anna then invited certain undefiled maidens of the daughters of Israel and they attended to Mary also, by carrying her about.
Many objects have been regarded as types of the Virgin and have been depicted in the iconography of Orthodox churches. Analogies and interpretations of this kind abound also in the liturgy, hymnography, and homilies of the Church. Within the literary authority of the Church, iconography developed a typology of the Virgin. One such "type" is described in Jacob’s vision, which is read in the service of Great Vespers of her Dormition (Koimisis). We read that Jacob’s vision of the ladder reached to heaven, upon which Angels ascended and descended, and above stood the Lord [Genesis 28:10-17]. Saint Photios writes of Mary: "The ladder leading up to heaven is being built, and earthly nature, leaping over her proper boundaries, comes to dwell in the heavenly tabernacles."
Saint Photios also comments, "The Lord’s Throne [Mary] is being prepared on earth, earthly things are sanctified, the heavenly hosts are mingled with us, and the wicked one, who first deceived us and was the contriver of the plot against us, has his power crushed, as his wiles and devices rot away."
Thus, we chant with Saint John of Damascus, "The holy parents of the Mother of God received from heaven a gift worthy of God, a throne higher than the very cherubim [Isaiah 6:1]–she who in childbirth would hear the Logos/Word and Creator." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George