Thursday, September 08, 2005

Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

For those who do not know, "Theotokos", which means "God bearer" is a title given to the Virgin Mary in the Orthodox faith. And the "nativity" simply means the celebration of birth. How else would Christ have come into the world as a child except through a woman? Thus all nations call her blessed.

The Nativity of the Theotokos Thursday, September 8, 2005
3rd Vespers at the Nativity of the Theotokos: Proverbs 9:1-11 Epistle:
Philippians 2:5-11 Gospel: St. Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 [KJV]

Deliverer of our Souls: St. Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28, especially vss.
27, 28:

“And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto Him, ‘Blessed is the
womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked.’ But He said, ‘Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.’”

Through this “certain woman of the company,” God revealed the truth
concerning the Theotokos - that she is “blessed,” which she even
prophesied of herself (Lk. 1:48). Her womb was blessed, for Christ our
God took flesh from that womb to redeem our flesh. Her breasts were
blessed, for by them He was nourished for earthly life and ministry.
However, primarily, we call the Theotokos blessed because she ‘heard
the word of God and kept it’ (Lk. 11:28).

The Theotokos is called blessed especially because supremely she lived
the conditions of blessedness disclosed by the Lord Jesus in the
Beatitudes: poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger for
righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and the enduring of persecution
and slander because of Him (Mt. 5:3-12). She embodied within herself
the way by which the Deliverer of our souls extends His blessing to our
cursed and fallen race so that we may achieve theosis.

As the Beatitudes are set at the beginning of the Lord’s first public
teaching (Mt. 5:1-12), the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-7:27), so the
Theotokos was the first of the new race called Christians who strive to
incorporate these spiritual truths as foundations for living. She
models what God achieves whenever a person takes the Beatitudes as the
operational criteria for every choice and action. In response, the
Deliverer of souls meets us in that effort and presents Himself to us
as a yoke-mate (Mt. 11:29) with all the power required to bring us to

What the Church knows from meditation on and observation of the person and life of the Virgin Mary is that her Son also became her Deliverer, enabling her to attain theosis, the full blessed union of heart, soul, and body with the living God. That Mary conceived the Deliverer was a gift she accepted. The “woman of that company” rightly discerned that, by obedience and faithfulness, the Theotokos achieved that special unique state of blessed deification.

The Beatitudes are the perfect guide for striving as did the Theotokos to attain union with the Deliverer of our souls. Can you imagine
greater poverty of spirit than she displayed? “He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden” (Lk. 1:48). Let us not be ashamed to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am not worthy to lift up my eyes to the height of Thy glory.” What greater mourning could there be than “the sword [which] pierced her heart” (Lk. 2:35) when her beloved Son and Deliverer said, “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn. 19:26)?

“Let us not be exalted in our own thoughts, but humble ourselves and cry contritely, God forgive us our sins.” What greater meekness could we seek? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk. 1:38). Let us show our hunger for righteousness and say with her, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38), and pursue mercy as when she pointed out, “They have no wine” (Jn. 2:3). We, too, may introduce peace into confusion as she did: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5).

Consider her personal cross as she stood before the Cross of the Deliverer in silence; and let her be our icon in all our affliction and persecution.

Following the Dormition of the Theotokos, when her tomb was opened for
Thomas, the company of Apostles discovered that the Deliverer “Who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb did translate her to life.” May He also bless us to follow her in keeping the Beatitudes!

O Deliverer of our souls, having wrought salvation in the flesh, renew us to life immortal.

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