The Holy Nativity of the Mother of God


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


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 those of her parents. It is nearly unanimous that her parent Joachim's name (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 name the meaning of a "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 ascribed to the Virgin Mary. The interpretation preferred by Saint John of Damascus is "Lady," "Kyria," 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."


Saint Photios, in a homily on the present feast, speaks of the divine maternity and explains: "After God had bestowed on man the enjoyment and mastery over everything in the Garden, it was meet for him who was entrusted with such great authority to be disciplined and trained with some command. However, after this command had been transgressed, the Creator did not overlook His creatures, though they had plunged themselves into such great error. The Logos/Word of God, in His love for man, became Man. Now the Incarnation entailed a pregnancy and a mother, so it was needful that a mother should be prepared down below for the Creator, for the re-creation of fallen man. She was to be a virgin, just as the first man had been formed of virgin earth, that the re-creation, too, should be carried out through a virgin womb, and that no transitory pleasure, even lawful, should be as much as imagined in the Creator's birth; for the Lord suffered to be born for the deliverance of him who was a captive of pleasure.

"Who then was worthy? Clearly, it was she who this day strangely issued from Joachim and Anna, the barren root. It was needful, yea very needful, that she who from the very cradle had by a superior reason preserved her body pure, her soul pure, her thoughts pure, should be marked out to be the Creator's Mother.

"It was needful that she who had been brought to the temple as an infant, who had trodden the untrodden places, should appear as a living temple for Him Who gave her life. It was needful that she who had been born in a wonderous (miraculous) manner from a sterile womb, and had removed her parents' reproach, should also make good the failure of her forefathers; for she, the descendant, was able to repair the ancestral defeat, who brought forth the Savior of our race by a husbandless birth, and molded His body."

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 6:11)--she who in childbirth would bear the Logos/Word and Creator." (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George