My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Tone Four
Today the bonds of barrenness are broken, God has heard the prayers of Joachim and Anna. He has promised them beyond all their hopes, To bear the Maiden of God By whom the Uncircumscribed One was born as mortal man, Who commanded an Angel to cry to Her Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!
Kontakion Hymn. Tone Four
Today the universe rejoices, For Anna has conceived the Theotokos through God's dispensation, For she has brought forth the One Who is to bear the Ineffable Word!
THE CONCEPTION BY RIGHTEOUS ANNA OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD-(December 9th)
Saint Anna (also Ann or Anne, from Hebrew Hannah meaning "favor" or "grace"), the mother of the Ever-Virgin Mary, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She married Saint Joachim (September 9th), who was a native of Galilee and descended from the royal line of David. Notwithstanding such a noble origin, they were poor. And behold, when once, being disdained by the Hebrews for their barrenness, they both in grief of soul were offering up prayers to God-Joachim on a mountain to which he had retired after the priest did not want to offer his sacrifice in the Temple, and Anna in her own garden weeping over her barrenness.
For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after twenty years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, the Archangel Gabriel announced to them that they would be the parents of "a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and through whom will come the salvation of the world." The Archangel told Saint Joachim to return home, where he would find his wife waiting for him in the city gate; Saint Anna he told to wait there to receive her husband. When they saw one another, they embraced, and this image is the traditional icon of their feast. In nine months a daughter was born to them, called Mary, Who from Her early childhood manifested the best qualities of soul.
"Despite the righteousness and the immaculateness of the life which the Mother of God led, 'sin and eternal death' manifested their presence in Her. They could not but be manifested: Such is the precise and faithful teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning the Mother God with relation to original sin and death." (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, "Exposition of the Teaching of the Orthodox Church on the Mother of God.")
The Orthodox Church does not accept the Latin or Roman Catholic dogma (heresy) of 1854) of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. In other words the Orthodox Church does not accept their teaching that the Theotokos (Mother of God) was exempted from the consequence of ancestral (original) sin (death, corruption, sin, etc.) at the moment of her conception by virtue of the future merits of Her Son. Only Christ was born perfectly Holy and sinless, as Saint Ambrose of Milan teaches in Chapter Two of his Commentary on St. Luke. The Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary was like everyone else in Her mortality, and in being subject to temptation, although She committed no personal sin. She was not a deified creature removed from the rest of humanity. If this were the case, She would not have been truly human, and the nature that Christ took her would not have been truly human either. If Christ does not truly share our human nature, then the possibility for our salvation would not take place.
One of the most evident Orthodox statements against the immaculate conception was written by Saint Ephraim the Syrian: "As lightning illuminates what is hidden, so also Christ purifies what is hidden in the nature of things. He purified the Virgin also and then was born, so as to show that where Christ is, there is manifest purity in all its power. He purified the Virgin, having prepared Her by the Holy Spirit...having been born, He left Her virgin. I do not say that Mary became immortal, but that being illuminated by grace, She was not disturbed by sinful desires" (Homily Against Heretics, 41).
The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus, published December 8, 1854. From 1483, Pope Sixtus IV had left Roman Catholics free to believe that Mary was subject to original sin or not, after having introduced the celebration, this freedom had been reiterated by the Council of Trent.
The doctrine is generally not shared by either Eastern Orthodoxy or by Protestantism. Protestantism rejects the doctrine because it is not explicitly spelled out in the Holy Bible. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox often say that the immaculate conception of the Theotokos contradicts the doctrine of the redemption of humanity, as the Virgin Mary would have been cleansed before Christ's own Incarnation, making his function superfluous. Orthodox Christians say that Saint Augustine (d. 430) whose works were not well known in Eastern Christianity until perhaps the 17th and 18th centuries, has influenced the theology of sin that has generally taken root in the West. Many Orthodox consider unnecessary the doctrine that Mary would require purification prior to the Incarnation. Eastern Orthodox theologians believe that the reference among the Greek and Syrian Fathers to Mary's purity and sinlessness may refer not to an a priori to her conduct after birth.
"If the Mother of God was removed from the general law of original (ancestral) sin, this means that she was given from her very conception supernatural gifts: righteousness and immortality, such as our first ancestors had before their fall into sin, and she should not have been subject to the law of bodily death. Therefore, if the Mother of God died, then, in the view of the Roman Catholic theologians, she accepted death voluntarily so as to emulate her Son; but death had no dominion over her."
The declaration of both dogmas (The Assumption of the Mother of God and the Immaculate Conception) corresponds to the Roman Catholic theory of the "development of dogmas." The Orthodox Church does not accept the Latin system of arguments concerning original sin. In particular, the Orthodox Church, confessing the perfect personal immaculateness and perfect sanctity of the Mother of God, whom the Lord Jesus Christ by His birth from her made to be more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim--has not seen and does not see any grounds the establishment of the dogma of the immaculate conception." (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
The Conception of the Ever-Virgin Mary by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem. The many icons depicting the Conception by Saint Anna show the Most Holy Theotokos trampling the serpent underfoot.
"In the icon of Saints Joachim and Anna are usually depicted with hands folded in prayer, their eyes are also directed upward and they contemplate the Mother of God, Who stands in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is an orb encircled by a serpent (symbolizing the devil), which strives to conquer all the universe by its power."
There are also icons in which Saint Anna holds the Most Holy Virgin on her left arm as an infant. On Saint Anna's face is a look of reverence. A large ancient icon, painted on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volhynia diocese. From ancient times this Feast was especially venerated by pregnant women in Russia.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God