Christ is in our midst!  He is and ever shall be!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“’Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts which Thou hast sucked.’”

Without doubt the Church magnifies “the most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary” for there is no one born of mortals more holy, more pure, or more blessed than the Mother of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ!  The Church cries out with the anonymous “certain woman” identified in the Gospel, “’Blessed!’”  She and she alone of all those born of flesh and blood is “higher than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim” which means, if we truly grasp what it is we sing, the daughter of Sts. Joachim and Anna far exceeds in the glory of God even those incorporeal beings who are closest to God!  Born of aged but righteous parents, she is the Queen arrayed in golden robes all glorious, and since her Dormition she stands at the right hand of the King Himself as our Steadfast Protectress and Intercessor (Ps. 44 [45]:9).  We here at the Chapel owe her more than we can imagine because by her intercession we exist today.   

Most holy Theotokos, save us!

It was but just a few bare weeks ago the Church had commemorated her Dormition, that is, her Falling Asleep and Assumption into Heaven (15 August).  Today, however, we commemorate her nativity, her birth, by her aged parents long bereft of offspring and a byword among Israel because of their childlessness.  As the other ancient stories of child-forsaken couples like Abraham and Sarah (Gn. 17:16-19; 18:9-15; 21:1-7), Zacharias and Elizabeth (Lk. 1:5-24, 57-79), Elkanah and Hannah (1 Kg. [1 Sm.] 1:1-2:11), so Joachim and Anna, well beyond childbearing years, are nonetheless promised a child who will be great in the eyes of the Lord.  In fact, so great that the Church both ends and begins the liturgical calendar with her feasts.  The whole ecclesiastical year from 1 September to 31 August is a life-giving commemoration of our salvation, beginning with our Lady’s nativity and concluding with her death and resurrection.  She is the source and the root of all other festivals.  Indeed, even of our salvation in Jesus Christ!  There is and can be no Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ according to the Flesh without first the birth of His Mother!  Her “yes” to the angelic invitation to bear the Son of God remains forever critical to the economy of salvation and the linchpin in our redemption and sanctification (Lk. 1:26-38; Ga. 4:4-7).  As Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory once remarked, “The East rejoices that the human role in the divine plan is pivotal” (Celebration of Faith, vol. III, p. 22). 

Most holy Theotokos, save us!

Now, there may be some who see in this a little too optimistic or energetic an embrace of the part human beings play in salvation.  There is a whole strain of Protestantism that would quickly suspect us of being Pelagians or semi-Pelagians, at least, that is, as those who over emphasize the human role in salvation, even to the exclusion of the grace of God.  But, as Fr. Schmemann also once said,

The Church’s veneration of Mary has always been rooted in her obedience to God, her willing choice to accept a humanly impossible calling.  The Orthodox Church has always emphasized Mary’s connection to humanity and delighted in her as the best, purest, most sublime fruition of human history and of man’s quest for God, for ultimate meaning, for the ultimate content of human life . . . . (Celebration of Faith, vol. III, p. 22)   

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary bears witness that this woman, this New Eve, is not a more ancient version of Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady fame.  She isn’t suddenly whisked off the streets of Nazareth to undergo a crash course on how to be the Mother of God, as though there were one!  No one in history had ever been asked before and never shall be again! 

Most holy Theotokos, save us!

But rather, as the Tradition holds, she is a ewe lamb long prepared for this sacrifice of worship by the hand of God, born to righteous and blameless parents, sent to the Temple at a very tender age like young Samuel the Prophet, enrolled with the virgins, lived there and prayed in the Holy of Holies all the while being fed by the hand of an angel until such time as her womanly nature precluded her continuation in that most holy place.  It was then that she was entrusted to her Guardian and widower, Joseph the Betrothed.  One’s womb, beloved, does not simply become the throne of God Almighty without divine preparation, that is, without the indwelling sanctifying grace of God, to be made into the Temple and Tabernacle for the Lord.  By all Scriptural accounts, there is great and holy care that God takes in the working out of our salvation, even down to the womb that will bear His Son.  For us, the Theotokos is the icon of synergy, that is, of the cooperation of man in the salvation of God procured for us sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Most holy Theotokos, save us! 

On this most glorious day of our Lady and Mother’s birth, the messianic words of the Prophet, it seems to me, are equally applicable here to the Mother of the Messiah as well.  Envisioning the holy mountain, the new Paradise, Isaiah speaks thusly: “and a little child shall lead them” (Is. 11:6).  Soon enough, we will follow this little child, the Theotokos, as she ascends the steps of the Altar and enters into the Temple to dwell before the face of God.  But, today the Church magnifies her life-giving birth, her saving nativity.  In the salvation of sinners, in the saving of this old world, this little child, blessed and magnified, called Mary, Ever-Virgin, leads us to the Saviour of our souls.  Though her Son and God pre-exists His Mother in eternity, she nevertheless leads Him in time. 

O Undefiled, by thy holy nativity Joachim and Anna were set free from the reproach of childlessness, and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death.  Delivered from the guilt of sin, thy people keep the feast as they sing unto thee: the barren woman bears the Theotokos who sustains our life (Festal Kontakion).

Most holy Theotokos, save us!

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!


Gn. 28:10-17

Ek. 43:27-44:4

Pr. 9:1-11


Pp. 2:5-11

Lk. 10:38-42; 11:27-28