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THE HOLY MOTHER OF GODTHEHOLYMOTHEROFGOD
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Synaxis of the Most-Holy Theotokos
Nativity of Christ.  Novgorod.  14th century.
Nativity of Christ.
Novgorod. 14th century.

On the second day of Christs Nativity, the Church unites its joy over the newborn Saviour of the world with a fervent glorification of the Mother of God. And throughout all the days of the celebration of Nativity, this joy is indivisible for us. In venerating the Lord, we venerate His Mother. In worshipping the Sun of truth in the Orient from on high, we glorify the One Who, like the dawn, precedes this sun. And not only precedes, but carries within Herself and bears into the world this Divine life and light. Heaven and earth gaze in awe upon the incomprehensible honor of the Virgin Who is called the Mother of God the Mother of the One Who created heaven and earth. Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, says the Holy Virgin, but God calls Her His Mother. She is the Mother and a hand-maiden at the same time, always the Mother and always a handmaiden, just as Her Son God and Man is always God and always Man.

Just as She attains Her majesty through humility, so She attains Her mother-hood through virginity. She retains virginity and becomes a mother, uniting two mysteries of life that never exist simultaneously. Mankind stands before these two mysteries, unable to comprehend them without Her. In Christs Nativity Her virginity is not only preserved, but it is elevated, it is crowned, it blossoms through Her motherhood. And Her motherhood is sacredly prepared, blessedly attained, and divinely perfected by Her virginity. All virgins and mothers participate to some degree in this mystery sacred motherhood is attained only through chastity, while chastity is affirmed by motherhood, not to mention the fact that true chastity is revealed in spiritual nativity and spiritual motherhood. It is written: More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife (Isaiah 54:1).

Today we celebrate the feast of Nativity in a world where motherhood is desecrated and virginity is derided, where the routine killing of ones own unborn children a Bethlehem-type massacre of infants on a planetary scale, and the everyday commonness of depravity attest more clearly than the most terrible prophecies to the fact that man without God cannot be man. There are many people who welcome the Lord and the Holy Virgin, beginning with the manger at Bethlehem (where, as the Gospel tells us, one can see the Infant and His Mother) and ending with the Cross, from which the Saviour of mankind says to His disciple: Behold thy Mother! (John 19:27). And yet there are many people who pass by, trampling upon everything! To be chosen as the Mother of God signifies the bearing of a cross. No one knows the mystery of birth, life, and death of each person as She does. And no one can pray for mankind with such compassion and such love as She, because She is the Mother of all living persons and the Mother of the Living God.

Let us try today to ponder as deeply as possible the mystery of the Mother of Gods intercession. Here, in the manger of Bethlehem, for Her He is simultaneously the Saviour of the world and a growing infant. An infant similar to others, yet at the same time the pre-eternal Son the One Who, at the Pre-eternal Council, chose to take upon Himself the burden of the world. Thus She carried Her infant like any other mother carries her firstborn. However, She had to be prepared by the Holy Spirit for the burden of the worlds sins, which Her Son was due to carry.

Through Her faith She can clearly understand what it all means. She, Who never sinned even in Her thoughts, according to St. Siluan the Athonite, knows what sin means. She knows exactly the degree of insult to God that sin represents, and from the moment when She began to carry Her Son within Her, sin became more than just an outward manifestation for Her, because He Who will take upon His shoulders the sins of all men is living inside Her. It was as though She carried within Herself the penitence of the whole world. In every sin She comes across, She sees and knows: for this He has come, this will be the cause of His suffering, because of this He will die.

And on the day of Christs Nativity, when in a gladsome light the power of Divine forgiveness is revealed to Her, She stands before this ocean of grace in a totally different manner. Up to now She carried grace concealed within Herself. Although She was surrounded by the breath of the Spirit, She did not know Him before as well as She does now. She sees God with Her own eyes and touches Him with Her own hands, and She prays for everyone. And the satanic depths of sin are bared before Her as never before in the spiritual light of Nativity, and Her prayer becomes invincible like the weapon of the cross, which even at this moment pierces Her heart.

Christian mothers, Christian maidens, and all Orthodox Christians! Among the terrible temptations of the world, when almost everyone cedes without any resistance to insolent and shameless sin, the Church repeats over and over again the words of St. John Chrysostome: All tasks in life should retreat before the task of rearing children, and the words of the Holy Optina elders: To preserve chastity in our times is to preserve everything. And when your hearts despair from the hopelessness of doing something good, turn to the Mother of God. Her prayer truly performs the impossible. Amen.

Protopriest Alexander Shargunov
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On the second day of Christs Nativity the Church glorifies the Mother of God. This day is called the Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos. The entire church, both in heaven and on earth, all the angels, all the saints, and all mankind glorify the Mother of God, Who is more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, because through Her came the Creator of the world our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos
Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos

We stand before the mystery of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary a Virgin and a Mother. Virginity and motherhood two mysteries that are united in the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary. Mysteries that appear to be unjoinable by nature.

At the same time these mysteries speak of the fact that this is one and the same mystery of life, for true motherhood is prepared by genuine chastity and virginity, while chastity and virginity are fulfilled in motherhood. And spiritual growth is related to growth in both these spheres, so to some degree each person may become part of this mystery.

Those who preserve chastity acquire a sort of spiritual motherhood, which exceeds everything else and is part of the motherhood of the Mother of God. And on this day let us pray that virginity and motherhood, which have been desecrated among us, be restored to their original significance. We know that currently in our country and all over the world depravity and licentiousness are being implanted, while motherhood is being subjected to mockery and desecration, because the murder of ones own children has been made legal.

Not several thousand as in Bethlehem, but several million of unborn children are killed each year by their own mothers! But more horrible is the fact that a spiritual killing of children is also taking place, as almost from infancy they are subjected to depravity. Satanic programs of corruption are already being introduced into the primary schools.

On this day, through our prayers to the Mother of God, we must stop to think about the mystery of life and death. That is what we are facing. If we wish to participate in the preservation and continuation of life on earth, we must understand the mystery of the Mother of Gods intercession and prayers for all of us. Intercession for other people signifies not only someone who intercedes with prayer for another person, but who is willing to take the place of the person requesting prayer, i.e. to bear the consequences of that persons sins. This is what prayer for others means without ruing anything we may possess (even our life), to be ready to sacrifice ourselves so that the other person be forgiven, and saved, and not perish either here or in eternity.

And the Mother of God, Whose soul continues to be pierced by the Cross of the Saviour Who accepted suffering for the sins of all mankind, reveals to us precisely such kind of intercession and teaches it to us, if we truly wish to participate in all that regards us, our life and death.

Whoever hopes for the Mother of Gods intercession should strive to acquire the same qualities of life as those that are granted to us by the One Who intercedes for us. Otherwise there will not be any intercession, and we will be unable to accept that which the Mother of God grants us.

Of all these qualities we should most of all speak today of those which constitute the basis of life purity and chastity. Purity, which engenders everything else. If there had been no purity the supreme purity of the Mother of God there would have been no Nativity of Christ, and God would not have come into the world. For God does not reveal Himself, cannot reveal Himself to anyone who remains impure. God cannot act in places where impurity has established itself. In order for us not to despair in this terrible world full of sorrows, but to find the courage to withstand evil the corruption, iniquity, godlessness, and Satanism which surround and envelop us, we must remember that this courage is granted only through genuine chastity and genuine motherhood. Therein lies the source of courage. Wherever a person has it and strives towards it, wherever through the intercession of the Mother of God he is capable of acquiring this gift and learning from it, there occurs our salvation and the salvation of our children, our mothers, our Church, our people. Amen.

Protopriest Alexander Shargunov
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