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.
SEPTEMBER 8TH--THE FEAST-DAY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE EVER-VIRGIN MARY
Saint of Andrew of Crete (660-740 AD) 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.
What was God's ultimate purpose for us and how did her birth fulfill eternal will? It is our unification with God and deification (theosis). Suffice it to add these thoughtful words of Saint Ambrose (339-397 AD), Bishop of Milan: "Unless man were redeemed, it would avail him nothing to be born."
Saint Andrew of Crete also comments, "This day is for us the beginning of all holy days. It is the door of kindness and truth." He then goes on to write: "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 AD) 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."
Saint Photios (+897 AD) also writes that "the present feast honoring the birth of the Virgin Mother of God easily carries off the glittering prize of seniority against every competitor...for without the Virgin's feast none of those that sprang out would appear...The Virgin's feast, in fulfilling the function of the root, the source, the foundation...takes on with good reason the ornament of all other feasts, and it is conspicuous with many great boons, and is recognized as the day of universal salvation."
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 forth the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God and Only-Begotten of His Father without mother.
Saint Photios clearly believes that the birth of the Virgin happened by a natural union, though the mother was barren and aged. "Dost thou accept Adam to have been molded out of clay and produced without a natural birth? Dost thou accept Eve to be the offspring not of intercourse but of his rib? Yet these things cannot be ascribed to natural law. Shall not grace which formed nature not be able to repair her? Cannot the Creator warm and irrigate that which has grown old? Shall not the Creator easily at His will restore her to the state in which He set her at first? Grace is not subservient to nature, but the Master of nature."
Saint Andrew of Crete chants,
"Anna, the barren and sterile, was not childless before God: for she was fore-ordained from many generations to become the mother of the pure Virgin, from whom the Maker of all creation sprang forth in the form of a servant."
Saint Neophytos of Cyprus (+ 1134-1220 AD), styled the "Chrysostom of Cyprus", treats our Lady in many passages of his writings. "Anna, delivered by the Creator of nature from the bonds of sterility conceives, by her spouse, Mary a daughter of God. Anna, today, gave birth to Mary, the first-fruits of our salvation, the immaculate Mother of God the Logos/Word, and the first-fruits of the renewal of our nature that had been aged and tarnished by transgression of the divine precept."
Saint John of Damascus (+676-750 AD) also writes: "On the birth of the Mother of God, the sorrow of our first mother Eve is turned to joy. While one heard, 'in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children' (Genesis 3:16), the other heard, 'Rejoice, thou who art full of grace' (St. Luke 1:28); one heard, 'thy turning shall be to thy husband', and the other heard, 'the Lord is with thee."
THE BARREN WOMAN BEARS THE THEOTOKOS WHO SUSTAINS OUR LIFE
Saint Andrew of Crete then compares the holy Anna to the righteous foremother Sarah, "O Lord, Thou hast opened the womb of Sarah, giving her Isaac as fruit in her old age" (Genesis 21:1-3). "Today, O Savior, Thou hast likewise given to godly Anna a fruit born from her womb, even Thine own Mother without spot."
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.
A NAME DESTINED FOR GREATNESS
What is the etymology of the name and what is its significance? There have been numerous explanations put forward as to the meaning of the Virgin's name, in contrast to her parents. It is nearly unanimous that her parents' names Joachim (in Hebrew Jehoiakim) was understood to mean "the Lord's restoration" or "may the Lord raise up"; whereas Anna's name means "grace". Their names are indicative of their characteristics and qualities. But the name Miriam has been translated as "Lordless", "Hope", "Myrrh of the Seas", "Star of the Seas" (Jerome), "Illuminated", "Beloved one", "Lady", "Lady of the Sea", "Drop of the Sea", "Exalted", "Highness", "Excellency", "One who surpasses" or "One who dominates." Some translators give the meaning "bitter sea", but this explanation has met with certain obstacles in Hebrew grammar, for it places the adjective after the noun, and the meaning seems to go against the positive attributes which are ascribed to the Virgin Mary. The interpretation preferred by Saint John of Damascus is "Lady"; thus he writes, "Accordingly it was grace (for this is the interpretation of Anna) that bore the Lady and Mistress (in Greek Despina), for that is the meaning of the name Mary: for she became truly the Mistress of all creation, since she was vouchsafed to be the Mother of the Creator." (Source: The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos. Written and Compiled by Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado)
(To be continued)
Please note: Divine Services on Friday at the Holy Dormition Chapel of the Theotokos in New Carlisle:
Orthros (Matins) 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy 10:00 a.m.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God