Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Notes on the Nativity of the Theotokos.

Today the Church celebrates the birth of Mary of Nazareth, the woman chosen by God the Father to become the mother of His son. In view of Mary's special role in salvation history, St. Andrew of Crete described today's feast day as "the beginning of feasts" and "a doorway to grace and truth." In an eighth-century sermon on the Nativity of the Theotokos, St. Andrew exhorts us to joy and offers some practical advice on how to celebrate this feast:
The radiant and bright descent of God for people ought to have a joyous basis, opening to us the great gift of salvation. Such also is the present feastday, having as its basis the Nativity of the Theotokos, and as its purpose and end, the uniting of the Word with flesh, this most glorious of all miracles, unceasingly proclaimed, immeasurable and incomprehensible.

The less comprehensible it is, the more it is revealed; and the more it is revealed, the less comprehensible it is. Therefore the present God-graced day, the first of our feastdays, showing forth the light of virginity and the crown woven from the
unfading blossoms of the spiritual garden of Scripture, offers creatures a common joy.

Be of good cheer, it says, behold, this is the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin and of the renewal of the human race! The Virgin is born, She grows and is raised up and prepares Herself to be the Mother of the All-Sovereign God of the ages. All this, with the assistance of David, makes it for us an object of spiritual contemplation. The Theotokos manifests to us Her God-bestown Birth, and David points to the blessedness of the human race and wondrous kinship of God with mankind.

And so, truly one ought to celebrate the mystery today and to offer to the Mother of God a word by way of gift: since nothing is so pleasing to Her as a word and praise by word. It is from here also that we receive a twofold benefit: first, we enter into the region of truth, and second, we emerge from the captivity and slavery of the written law. How so? Obviously, when darkness vanishes, then light appears; so also here: after the law follows the freedom of grace.
On this feastday, those of us who regularly seek the protection of the Mother of God in prayer would do well to offer "a word by way of gift" in grateful appreciation for her continuing work in our lives and in the Church. May she who was blessed to bear the Incarnate Word in her womb intercede for all who celebrate her birth. AMDG.


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