In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst! Today we celebrate the Nativity of the Mother of God. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible for man to return to God. It was often said that God would have to come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind. The Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. The Mother of God was born today so that God could come into the world and save man from himself. The story of the birth of the Theotokos is recorded not in the Holy Scriptures, which deal with the life of Christ and then His Holy Church. But we do get the story from a book known as the Protoevangelion of James. The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, celebrated in November, is an event also recorded in the Protoevangelion. So now to the story of the Nativity of the Mother of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were the Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren. Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God's mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, the wife of the Patriarch Abraham. Sts. Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple. Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew’s as a Divine punishment for sin, so Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen because they weren’t able to have a child. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless. St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God's mercy on her family. The Lord fulfilled the petitions of this righteous couple they had attained to extreme old age and had prepared themselves by a virtuous life for their calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World. The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but even the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, and so we sang in the festal hymns this evening: "the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls" (2nd Stikhera on "Lord, I Have Cried", Tone 6). Now, in spite of our hymns in praise of the sinless-ness and holiness of the Theotokos, we do not accept the Western Christian teaching of the Immaculate Conception. It’s important for us to know about this feast, but also to know what is said about her birth that we do not accept. The teaching of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated in the mid-1800’s, and says that the Virgin Mary was born without the weight of sin on her nature. Her birth is miraculous because it is said to be without seed (without normal intercourse)—when the angel told Anna she would have a daughter was the moment of impregnation. Her birth had nothing to do with the normal cycle of human life, she was immaculately conceived. So that Mary would be born with no inclination to sin, and death would have no hold on her. This teaching comes because people couldn’t understand how God could be born of a normal, sinful woman. The traditional teaching of the Christian Church really makes Mary even greater than this innovation—we teach that she was born exactly like everyone else, but she still never sinned. She relied totally on God her entire life, and she never transgressed His commandments. But she was totally human—still born with the affects of sin on her nature, and still in need of salvation that could come only through her Son. And in the supreme humility of the Incarnation, Christ was born of woman, the Virgin Mary. The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with childlike devotion and love. The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ. To Whom be all glory, honour, and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!
- HYMNS OF THE FEAST
Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
Thy birth, O Theotokos, brought joy to the whole world, for from thee dawned the sun of righteousness, Christ our God. Freeing us from the curse, He gave us His blessings. Abolishing death, He granted us eternal life.
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
In thy holy birth, Immaculate One, Joachim and Anna were rid of the shame of childlessness; Adam and Eve of the corruption of death. And so thy people, free of the guilt of their sins, celebrate crying: "The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, who nourishes our life."