My beloved spiritual children 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.
ON DECEMBER 9TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE CONCEPTION BY RIGHTEOUS ANNA OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
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 (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 Logos!
Saint and Righteous Anna, the mother of the Theotokos (The Mother of God), was the wife of Saint Joachim and the daughter of Mattham, a Levi priest. Anna and Joachim were married and childless for about 50 years. This saddened them, and they vowed that should the Lord bless them with a child they would dedicate it to Him. Hoping their prayers would be answered, they brought gifts to the Lord's Temple in Jerusalem on the year Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) and Feast of Lights (c.f., Macc 4:52-59); 2 Macc 10:5). The priests, however, did not wish to accept them, since they were from a childless man, and Joachim was scorned (c.f. St. Romanos the Melodist, c. 490-556). Publicly humiliated he soon remembered that Abraham whom God gave a son in his old age. He then retired to the wilderness to pray, were the Archangel Gabriel told him that his prayers have been heard, and that Anna will give birth to a daughter who shall be called Mary.
The Archangel also reminded Joachim that, "according to your vow, she (Mary) shall be devoted to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother's womb. Mary shall not eat or drink anything unclean, nor shall her conversation or life be among the crowds of the people, but in the temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible to say, or so much as to suspect, any evil concerning her." Again, Saint Romanos chants, "Joachim on the mountain prayed to receive fruit from the womb of Anna and the prayer of the holy man was received."
Anna, meanwhile, went home for her garden weeping bitterly. She sat under a laurel tree and prayed, "O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You opened the womb of Sarah and gave her a son Isaac". She wept asking. "Alas! who begot me? And what womb did bear me, that I should be thus accursed before the children of Israel, and that they should reproach and deride me in the temple of my God? Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what can I be compared? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before You, O Lord Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not comparable to the waves of the sea; for these, whether they are calm, or in motion, with the fishes which are in them, praise You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth because even the earth brings forth its fruit in season and blessed You, O Lord".
The same Archangel appeared to Anna and told her, "I am the Angel who has presented your prayers and alms before God; and now I have been sent to you to announce that you shall bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and who shall be blessed above all women. She shall be full of the favor of the Lord, even from her birth. She shall remain in her father's house until she is weaned and, thereafter, she shall be delivered to the service of the Lord. She shall serve God, day and night, in fasting and prayer. She shall abstain from every unclean thing and shall not depart from the temple until she shall reach the years of discretion. She shall never know man, but alone and without precedent, as an immaculate and undefiled virgin, without intercourse with man, she shall bring forth a Son. She, His handmaiden, shall bring forth the Lord, both in grace, and in name, and in work, the Savior of the world." Archangel Gabriel then said, "Arise, therefore, and go up to Jerusalem; and when you arrive at the gate that, because it is plated with gold, is called "Golden', there, for a sign, you shall meet your husband, for whose safety you have been anxious. When, therefore, you find these things accomplished, believe that all the rest which I have told you shall also undoubtedly be accomplished".
On this occasion Saint Romanos Melodos chants, "the prayer and groaning of Joachim and Anna at their barrenness and childlessness have proved acceptable, and have come unto the ears of the Lord; and they have put forth fruit that brings life to the world. The one offered his prayer in the mountain, the other bore her reproach in the garden. But with joy the barren bears the Theotokos who sustains our life."
On the following day, Joachim brought his offerings into the Temple, worshipped the Lord, and then returned home. There was great joy and celebration when it was heard that Anna conceived.
When Mary was three years old, her parents, after offering up their sacrifice, left her to be brought up with the other virgins in the apartments of the Temple.
For the next seven years, Anna and Joachim visited Mary often until they reposed, leaving her an orphan. The Orthodox Church commemorates the Dormition of Saint Anna on 25th of July. Both of the Virgin Mary's parents are commemorated together on the 9th of September. (Source: Orthodox Church In America)
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
The Orthodox Church does not accept the Roman Catholic teaching and dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but has also always believed that the Virgin Mary was, from her conception, filled with every Grace of the Holy Spirit in view of her calling as the Mother of Christ our God.
"It is generally agreed, I think, that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is one of the questions which make a clear and profound division between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
First, it is an undeniable fact that the great majority of the members of the Orthodox Church did not admit the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as it was defined by Pious IX in 1854...Speaking of the Theotokos, Orthodox writers multiplied expressions such as "All Holy", "All Pure", "immaculate". This does not mean that these writers believed in the Immaculate Conception. The Orthodox theologians agreed that Mary was purified from original sin before the birth of Our Lord. By this, they usually mean that she was purified in her mother's womb like St. John the Baptist. This "sanctification" is not the Immaculate Conception." (Father Lev Gillet)
"The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by a Bull of Pope Pious IX in 1854. The definition of this dogma says that the Most Holy Virgin Mary at the moment of her conception was cleansed of ancestral ("original") sin. According to the Roman teaching, the burden of the sin of our first ancestors consists in the removal from mankind of a supernatural gift of grace. But here there arose a theological question: if mankind had been deprived of the gifts of grace, then how is one to understand the words of the Archangel addressed to Mary: "Rejoice, thou that are full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women...Thou has found Grace with God" (St. Luke 1:28, 30)? One could only conclude that the Most Holy Virgin Mary had been removed from the general law of the "deprivation of grace" and of the guilt of the sin of Adam. And since her life was holy from her birth, consequently she received, in the form of an exception, a supernatural gift, a grace of sanctity, even before her birth, that is, at her conception. Such a deduction was made by the Latin (Roman Catholic) theologians. They called this removal a "privilege" of the Mother of God. One must note that the acknowledgment of this dogma was preceded in the Latin West by a long period of theological dispute, which lasted from the 12th century, when this teaching appeared, until the 17th century, when it was spread by Jesuits in the Roman Catholic world...
"...In accordance with the teaching of Sacred Scripture, in Adam all mankind tasted the forbidden fruit. Only the God-Man Christ begins with Himself the new mankind, free by Him from the sin of Adam. Therefore, He is called the "Firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29), that is: the First in the new human race; He is the "new Adam." The Most Holy Virgin was born as subject to the sin of Adam together with all mankind, and with him she shared the need for redemption. ("Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs," pat. 6). The pure and immaculate life of the Virgin Mary up to the Annunciation by the Archangel, her freedom from personal sins, was the fruit of the union of her spiritual labor upon herself and the abundance of Grace that was poured out upon her. "Thou hast found Grace with God," the Archangel said to her in his greeting: "thou hast found," that is, attained, acquired, earned. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was prepared by the best part of mankind as a worthy vessel for the descent of God the Logos/Word to earth. The coming down of the Holy Spirit ("the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee") totally sanctified the womb of the Virgin Mary for the reception of God the Logos/Word.
One must acknowledge that the very principle of a preliminary "privilege" is somehow not in harmony with Christian concepts, for "there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:11). (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomazansky)
MY BLESSING TO AL 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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God