Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos
The Holy Virgin Mary was born of aged parents, Joachim
and Anna. Her father was of the lineage of David, and her mother of the
lineage of Aaron. Thus, she was of royal birth by her father and of
priestly birth by her mother. In this, she foreshadowed Him who would be
born of her as King and High Priest. Her parents were quite old and had
no children. Because of this they were ashamed before men and humble
before God. In their humility they prayed to God with tears, to bring
them joy in their old age by giving them a child, as He had once given
joy to the aged Abraham and his wife Sarah by giving them Isaac.
The Almighty and All-seeing God rewarded them with a joy that surpassed all their expectations and all their most beautiful dreams. For He gave them not just a daughter, but the Mother of God. He illumined them not only with temporal joy, but with eternal joy as well. God gave them just one daughter, and she would later give them just one grandson-but what a daughter and what a Grandson!
Mary, Full of grace, Blessed among women, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Altar of the Living God, the Table of the Heavenly Bread, the Ark of God’s Holiness, the Tree of the Sweetest Fruit, the Glory of the race of man, the Praise of womanhood, the Fount of virginity and purity-this was the daughter given by God to Joachim and Anna. She was born in Nazareth, and at the age of three, was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem. In her young womanhood she returned again to Nazareth, and shortly thereafter heard the Annunciation of the Holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, from her most-pure virgin body.
-The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints
by St Nikolai Velimirovich, Bishop of Zica
The Feast of the Nativity of Mother of God is the first
major Holy Day of the new Church Year which began on September 1st. Why
was this day selected since it is not in the Holy Scripture? History
shows that St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, built a Church
in Jerusalem which was dedicated to the Nativity of our Lady. It was
said to be consecrated on the date of her nativity: September 8th.
The holy deacon Romanos, who lived in the 5th century, was a native of Syria and later a deacon of Haghia Sophia in Constantinople. He is known as the “sweet singer” and has written many prayers and hymns now in use in the Eastern Church. He was probably the first one who brought this day to the attention of the Church leaders. He wrote a hymn in honor of her birth and spread the knowledge of it among the people.
Both St. Andrew of Crete and St. John of Damascus also wrote much about this event. Our holy father Andrew of Crete said: “This day is for us the beginning of all holy days. It is the door to kindness and truth. Today is arranged for the Creator of all, an inspired Church and creation prepares itself to become the divine dwelling place of its Creator.”
As it is the first major holy day of the new Church Year, it sets the theme for the entire year: God’s inexpressible love for all of us and our response to that love involves striving to live in grace. Amen.
“The day of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the feast of joy for the whole world, because through the Theotokos the entire human race was renewed and the grief of the first mother Eve was changed into joy.”
Our venerable father John of Damascus
According to one Christian tradition, the Most Holy
Theotokos was born in a cave near the Bethesda pool where Christ Our
Savior would one day perform miracles of faith. This opinion rests upon
the testimony of St. Sophronios, St. John Damascene, and upon the
evidence of the recent finds in the Probatica. The Crusaders believed
that a grotto they discovered next to the reservoir ruins was the
birthplace of the Theotokos, the home of her parents: the holy and
righteous Joachim and Anna. They incorporated the cave into a powerfully
impressive Church in honor of the holy and righteous Anna.
Unlike other Crusader Churches, St. Anna's was not destroyed by the Mamelukes who captured the Holy Land in the twelfth century. Instead, Mameluke commander Saladin converted the Church into an Islamic seminary and left it whole. If you read Arabic you will find the name Salahiya (of Saladin) in an inscription above the entrance. Today this historical Church in honor of St. Anna belongs to the French government and is run by the White Fathers, an order of the Catholic Church named for the color of their robes.