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. God’s 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 father’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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.
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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.
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HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE HOLY 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.