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Nativity of the Virgin Mary

September 13, 2010
Our Mother of Perpetual Help, a 15th Century M...

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As I posted about a week ago, it is the New Year of the Church Calender as of September 1st. The first Feast is celebrated on the 8th of September. The first Feast commemorated by Christians of the Orthodox Church is the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. I find it interesting that the first and last celebrations of the Liturgical year are about the Theotokos. The biggest celebrations are of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, but the celebrations for Mary are like liturgical bookends, so to speak.

Just a tiny bit of background for those who are not familiar with the Tradition of the Virgin Mary’s birth: Her parents were Joachim and Anna, often referred together as Righteous Joachim and Anna. If you have ever seen a Church by the name of St Anne’s, that is her. They were elderly, and beyond the age of conception when Mary was born. This is reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah, as well as Zachariah and Elizabeth. Upon reaching a certain age of childhood, she was dedicated to the Lord, and she lived in the Temple, just like Samuel in the Tabernacle. There are a lot of details I am leaving out, but you get the basic idea.

Like many of of Protestant friends who read this may wonder, I too wondered why is the Virgin Mary celebrated first in the Liturgical Year, and not Christ? But that is the wrong question, because it comes from a wrong understanding. Christ not only has the biggest celebrations of the Liturgical year, but in fact has all of them. Even the celebrations for the Theotokos Virgin Mary are celebrations of Christ. Before the ages God chose Mary to be the one to give flesh to God the Word. The Incarnation is the culmination and cause of creation, its the focal point of our communion with God, it’s our whole salvation. Because of Christ, the birth of the Virgin Mary is a significant day in the history of the world. Without the Savior of our souls being born of her, Mary would have just been another very holy saint.

Learning to celebrate the Theotokos has been one of the things that has been difficult for me, coming out of a Protestant background. Because the Gospels are focused mainly on Christ, and I never learned the Tradition of the Church from the most ancient times, I never really learned her special place in our salvation. Yes there is the account in Luke of Elizabeth’s prophecy, but I never made the connection until I found Orthodoxy. So now that I am becoming immersed into the life of the Church, I celebrate Christ and His Mother with the Church. We celebrate the miracle of her birth to aged parents. We celebrate her dedication to the temple and holiness of life. We celebrate her willingness to surrender her body for the Incarnation of Christ our God. And we celebrate the place she occupies in Heaven as an intercessor before her Glorified Son. We celebrate God’s salvation of man, and her role in it.

We sing and pray in the services of the Church, as well as in our personal prayer, “It is truly right and meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed, most pure and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim. Thou who without corruption barest God the Word, and art truly Theotokos, we magnify thee.” For the sake of Christ, who is our salvation, sanctification and glorification, we give honor to the one He chose to enter the world through. If He did, how can we not. It has become a great blessing in my spiritual growth to honor the Mother of God. Blessed feast day! For today (Well, September 8th) we honor the birth of the one who would become the one who made true communion with God through His Incarnation possible.

I am writing this a bit late. I intended to get this done at least a few days ago, but have been a bit busy with family and work. The Church is already coming up on the commemoration of The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (tomorrow actually). Due to my schedule, I will miss this wonderful celebration, but hopefully I can find an evening service somewhere in the local area.

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