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THE HOLY MOTHER OF GODTHEHOLYMOTHEROFGOD
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The Most Glorious Nativity of the Mother Of God

Today She is born from the chaste Joachim and Anna, and Adams curse upon us is destroyed by Her birth (stichera for the Vigil).

For five-and-a-half thousand years mankind subconsciously awaited this moment. All that while it could not find in its midst a maiden worthy of becoming the Mother of God incarnate; humanity was unable to produce a Chosen One Who could contain within Herself the Uncontainable.

Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
Nativity of the Holy Theotokos

All spiritual things were foreign to antediluvian mankind. In those days people were so incorrigibly flesh-bound that God eradicated them from the face of the earth in the waters of the deluge and planted a new mankind from the roots of righteous Noah. But Adams new progeny did not remember for long the reasons for the deluge and began anew to build a monument to its pride. Then the Lord dispersed the people upon the entire face of the earth, dividing them one from another by a language barrier.

Afterwards He found a shoot of future salvation Abraham, and planted him in fertile ground, grew a mighty tree from him the people of Israel, guarded them, cleansed them of idolatry, and finally focused all His attention and concern upon one of its branches the tribe of Judah, and then concentrated upon a small offshoot the ancestry of David, which gave the world the everlasting Bloom the Most-pure Virgin. Such was the divine plan for our salvation from a dying root to produce a bloom of incorruptibility, chosen from among all ages and people the Most-blessed Virgin Mary.

This wondrous event took place in a small town in Palestine called Nazareth, where an elderly barren couple gave birth to a Daughter. For many of their neighbors this appeared extraordinary, but not more than that. They were unable to comprehend the magnitude of the event. Had their spiritual eyes been open, they would have seen a wondrous sight: the Son of God attending the birth of the Holy Virgin; angels reverently surrounding the newborn Maiden, greater than the cherubim and higher than the seraphim; Adam and Eve spiritually triumphant, seeing the ancient prophecy coming to pass the birth of a Maiden Whose seed would destroy the head of the ancient serpent (Gen. 3:15). Repentant sinners rejoice, for into the fallen world has come the Surety of sinners, the Intercessor for the damned, the Joy of all who sorrow.

The Mother of God loves and hears all those who pray to Her in the simplicity of their hearts, for through the doors of Her mercy everyone enters freely with prayer (St. Dimitri of Rostov).

Let us not pass by this door, dear brethren, by forgetting to pray, and let us not thus send away, as did antediluvian mankind, the Merciful Intercessor from our midst.

Reprinted from Orthodox Russia, No. 17, 2001.

THE RIGHT TIME
Homily for the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos

In the service for the feast of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos there are the following words: In the sorrow of their barrenness, the wise parents of the Mother of God cried out unto the Lord, and they gave birth to Her unto all generations, for universal salvation and glory.

Let us ponder this moment, my dear brethren. We see before us the righteous Joachim and Anna - venerable and pious, faithful spouses, issuing from an ancestry of kings and priests, God-fearing, keeping all Gods commandments, known for their humility and charity. And yet this model couple is the object of scorn and humiliation on the part of their neighbors! How can that be? It is because the years go by and by, and they have already reached old age, and still the Lord has not given them any children.

In those times every Jew hoped, through his descendants, to participate in the kingdom of the Messiah. Therefore, every Jew who was childless was scorned by others, because barrenness was considered to be Gods great punishment for sins.

This was especially hard for Joachim to endure, being a descendant of King David and knowing that Christ the Saviour was to be born of his ancestry. And so what do the righteous Joachim and Anna do? Despite being mocked by others for so many years, they do not grumble against the Lord, they do not abandon their virtuous life, but humbly continue to endure, to endure and hope, to hope and - despite their very old age - to have faith in Gods mercy. As the church hymn tells us, in the sorrow of their barrenness they cry out unto the Lord, i.e. they tearfully pray to him.

And what is the result of this humility, patience, faith, hope and prayer? Once again we receive the answer in the church hymn: they, the wise parents, receive a heavenly gift from God - the One Who is higher than the cherubim, Who is birth-giver to God the Word, - and they give birth to Her unto all generations, for universal salvation and glory.

Such is the extraordinary gift earned by the righteous Joachim and Anna - they give birth to the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary, and in Her nativity they themselves are glorified for all ages!

But why did they have to wait so long? The Lord was not punishing them for their sins - they were already righteous and pure; the Lord was not testing their patience and humility - they had already exhibited these virtues abundantly. No, dear brethren, they had to wait for so long until the time was right. Herein lies the key - they had to wait until the time was right.

The Holy Virgin, as the future Mother of God, had to be the purest vessel possible in humanity. Because of this She had to come from the purest parents possible: for this reason the righteous Joachim and Anna had to wait until they were purified of all human passions by means of humility, patience and old age. And then, when the right time came, they - who had so meekly accepted Gods will and the fate which the Lord had meted out to them - now received such wondrous comfort.

Does not the same happen in our lives, dear brethren? We often find ourselves in a state of spiritual barrenness: we are subjected to sorrows and hardships, and we pray to God without apparently receiving any comfort, or we ask for the fulfillment of some spiritually-beneficial wish - and it is not fulfilled. And so we begin to think that this is punishment for our sins - and we fall into despair, we begin to lose hope, we even begin to grumble against the Lord.

No, dear brethren! The Lord often tarries with the fulfillment of our wishes not because He does not hear our prayers or punishes us for our sins, but because the right time has not yet come. We do not know Gods will for us, while the Lord sees our entire life, knows what we need and when we need it, knows what is best for us and when.

Therefore, let us follow the example of the righteous Joachim and Anna: let us patiently wait and patiently pray, let us meekly accept the will of God, let us have absolute hope of Gods mercy and absolute faith in His providence, let us have faith in that the Lord hears all our prayers, all our cries, sees all our sorrows, knows all our needs, and that He will send us what we need when we need it. Amen.

Father Rostislav Sheniloff.

 

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When a king plans to live in a certain city or settlement, an appropriate dwelling is prepared for him there in advance; in like manner the Heavenly King, before coming down to earth, prepared for Himself a wondrous palace, not made by hands, in the person of the Most-immaculate Virgin Mary. And if we, when looking at notable sights, focus our attention on the beautiful architecture of palaces and various monuments, then with how great a piety and awe should we not bow down before the living House of God?

Today the Church prayerfully commemorates the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the most blessed among women, Who has so wondrously served the mystery of the incarnation of God the Word. Her parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, came from families of kings and high priests, but lived in obscurity. Being distinguished by high morality, they were at the same deeply unhappy, since they had lived until a very old age without having children, which at that time was regarded as severe punishment from God. This was because every Jew of those times ardently wished for the awaited Christ to come from his family or at least from his descendants. This meant that whoever had no children was deprived of such a hope. Joachim and Anna often earnestly prayed to God to remove from them such a disgrace in the eyes of the Jews, but the Lord tarried in fulfilling their request because the time was not yet ripe. It seemed to them that all hope was already lost, but what is impossible for man is possible for God. Gods Providence once again raised their hopes especially strongly. During the feast of the renewal of the temple, St. Joachim came to Jerusalem with his servants and wished to offer a rich sacrifice, but the priest did not accept it, indicating that Joachim was unworthy because of his childlessness, while another Jew expressed his contempt for Joachim in front of everyone. The childless fathers cup of sorrow overflowed. He let his servants go back home, while he himself went off into the desert and spent 40 days there in fasting and prayer. Lord, he cried out, shedding copious and bitter tears, deliver me from the disgrace of childlessness, and if by Thy blessing my wife should give birth to a child, I will dedicate it to Thy service. At the same time St. Anna, having learned from the servants of what had happened to her husband in Jerusalem, refused to be comforted and tearfully increased her prayers, acknowledging herself to be a sinner and unworthy of Gods mercy. Being unable to find peace anywhere, she went out into her garden and in one of the trees saw a nest with fledglings. My God, my God! she said tearfully and sorrowfully, even the birds of heaven are more fortunate than I, for they have offspring, while I am lower than dumb creatures At this her trial ended. An angel suddenly appeared to her and said: Anna, fear not, thy supplication has been heard, thou shalt conceive and give birth to a Daughter Who shall be the most blessed of all. Who can describe the joy of the previously unfortunate woman? She immediately hurried off to Jerusalem, in order to give praise and thanks to God in the temple. The same angel also appeared to righteous Joachim and announced to him that a Daughter, Whom he should call Mary, would be born to him, and in confirmation of the truth of his words the angel said: Hurry to Jerusalem and there thou wilt meet thy wife Anna at the city gates. In truth everything came to pass as was foretold. The overjoyed couple offered a sacrifice to God, which the priest accepted very readily this time, and afterwards returned home, where a Daughter was born to them and was called Mary.

So you see, dear brethren, that even people who are righteous from childhood do not always get what they ask for right away. Sometimes many years pass before the Lord responds to the supplication of His servants. One thing remains without doubt that never does our sincere supplcation slip by the All-seeing God. For this reason Christ teaches us: ask and ye shall receive. He did not mean ask once, but rather keep on asking, perhaps for a long time, persistently, earnestly, and above all with faith in Gods mercy. However, it is not forbidden to ask for an acceleration of celestial help, but we should always remember that the Lord governs His own paths and, if necessary, fulfills our entreaties in their own good time, as occurred with the nativity of the Most-immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.

Protopriest Leonid Koltsov

 

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Nativity of the Theotokos

Grant me, O Lord, the power to glorify according to my ability and by the grace of God this great Christian feast – the Nativity of the Most-holy Virgin Mary, predestined by the Creator of ages to be the Mother of the Son of God in flesh.

Mentally I compare the two maidens: the virginal Eve, when she was first created, and the Most-holy Virgin and Ever-virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

The first maiden became the willful cause of universal sin, damnation, death, and all the misfortunes to which we are subjected even to this day and from which we suffer terribly; the second Maiden became, through God’s will, the cause of righteousness, blessing, and eternal life, which were showered upon us by God the Word, Who was born of Her in the flesh.

The first maiden was created from Adam’s rib for the sake of unity of mankind’s provenance from the same blood; the second Virgin – the cause of today’s celebration – was born from the faith, ardent prayer, and charity of old and barren parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, in order to destroy sin, damnation, and death, for God the Word Who was born from Her did eliminate iniquitous sin among the faithful and expelled damnation and death, granting blessing and eternal life instead.

Such are the two antitheses – the progenitor of mankind Eve and the intercessor for Christians, the Holy Virgin Mary! Wondrous is God’s Providence in regard to mankind! Wondrous are the righteous people, who engender truth, peace, blessing, and eternal life in the world, and the first among them is the Holy Virgin Mary. Wondrous is also God’s mercy towards mankind in restoring it from the Fall. Through Her nativity the Holy Virgin Mary united God the Word with men, made divine our nature that had been rejected because of sin, and led mankind into contact with the angelic, bright, blessed world, thus helping humans become celestial denizens.

Through God the Word’s incarnation from the Holy Virgin, mankind became the recipient of countless boons from God, of which it could not even dream while it remained submerged in all the impurities of sin. From the Lord, Who had suffered voluntarily for the sins of the world, mankind received the font of baptism, salvific repentance, the all-enlightening Word of God that instructs us in piety; the Church has been founded, providing sanctified pastors; communion of the Body and Blood of Christ has been given, purifying us of all sin, renewing our nature corrupted by sin, and adorning and making fragrant the humble and believing souls.

Man’s salvation has been made dependent upon faith, repentance, and man’s good deeds, while without faith in Christ, God’s Lamb, Who has taken upon Himself the sins of the world, and without earnest and fruitful repentance it is impossible to be saved; for this reason, too, the faithful have been given an All-powerful Intercessor – the Holy Virgin.

Let us ponder the meaning of our feasts and let us raise our minds and hearts upwards – to God, to heaven, to our homeland on high.

Saint John of Kronstadt

 

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HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS

Nativity of the Theotokos

“This is the day of the Lord – O people, rejoice!” Thus exults today the holy Church of Christ. But what kind of day of the Lord is it, when we commemorate the nativity of the Virgin Mary? We all know how mankind languished when the grace-filled live contact between earth and God was broken off as a result of the Fall. Humanity languished in the power of darkness. “Deliver my soul from imprisonment,” – exclaimed God’s prophet King David in the Old Testament. Darkness of the soul, as a consequence of sin, took such hold over man that life truly became similar to imprisonment. People awaited liberation from the power of this darkness. They knew that the One Who could destroy the power of sin over mankind was due to come, and they waited for Him. He was spoken of not only by the prophets, but He was spoken of even by the pagans who had been illuminated by the light of God. Both these pagans and the Old Testament prophets prophesied that the lost connection between heaven and earth would be restored, and that mankind must prepare itself for such an event.

This was also indicated by the Lord Himself. Do you remember Jacob’s flight from his brother Esau? Jacob, exhausted by the flight from his brother, fell asleep in the desert. And suddenly he saw a ladder rising from earth to heaven, upon which angels were descending to earth and ascending into heaven, and at the top of the ladder he saw the Lord Who said to him: “Fear not, I am with thee!”

This ladder represented humanity in the person of the Virgin Mary, Who ascended from earth to heaven through Her purity, faith, and love, while the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, descended by this ladder to us on earth.

The nativity of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary was the day that presaged the approach of the Light which humanity awaited and which was due to liberate mankind from the power of darkness. We glorify the Son of God, the Messiah, as the “Gladsome Light.” We call Christ the Sun of truth, come down from heaven to enlighten and sanctify the universe and man. And thus the nativity of the Holy Virgin Mary was that first star which presaged the coming down to earth of the Sun of truth and the Light of wisdom. It is for this reason that the church proclaims on this day: “This is the day of the Lord – O people, rejoice!” We also celebrate the day of the Virgin Mary’s nativity so triumphantly, because this day initializes the twelve major feasts of the church year. In the person of the One born today there appeared in the desert of Old Testament mankind a life-giving stream, which afterwards turned into a mighty current of living water for all people. “O people, rejoice!...” and how should we not rejoice over the One Who became our guiding star! In commemorating this great day in the life of mankind, we continue to sail upon the turbulent sea of life, turning our gaze upon the One Who manifested to mankind an image of purity, love, faith, humility, and meekness.

And as we make an effort to complete the path of our earthly pilgrimage in purity of heart, with love and loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ, by the intercession of the Most-holy Virgin may we hear the Lord’s quiet voice saying: “Take heart, my son, be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Amen.

 Bishop Mitrofan (Znosko-Borovsky)

 

 

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