Skip to comments.Orthodox Feast of The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary September 8
Posted on 09/07/2005 4:41:55 PM PDT by Kolokotronis
Your birth, O Theotokos, brought joy to the whole world, for from you dawned the sun of righteousness, Christ our God. Freeing us from the curse, He gave us His blessings. Abolishing death, He granted us eternal life.
In your holy birth, Immaculate One, Joachim and Anna were rid of the shame of childlessness; Adam and Eve of the corruption of death. And so your people, free of the guilt of their sins, celebrate crying: "The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, who nourishes our life
According to the ancient tradition of the Church, the Theotokos was born of barren and aged parents, Joachim and Anna, about the year 16 or 17 before the birth of Christ. Joachim was descended from the royal line of David, of the tribe of Judah. Anna was of the priestly tribe of Levi, a daughter of the priest Matthan and Mary, his wife.
Reading courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA Apolytikion courtesy of Narthex Press, Northridge, CA Kontakion courtesy of Narthex Press, Northridge, CA
"This day was set aside by the Orthodox Church in the early first century, but not observed until the eighth century when Pope Sergios saw fit to join with the Orthodox during his reign which extended from A.D. 687 to 701. All of Christendom agreed on the date that the Virgin Mary was born, but for some reason the date was not an official feast day in the Roman sector for more than a third of the length of existence of the Christian Church. The lack of communication between East and West ended in the Schism of 1054, a break which now appears to be an ever-narrowing gap, hopefully to be closed in a reunion upon which the Mother of God is sure to smile.
The familiar story of Mary's birth has had variations in splinter groups of Christianity, but there is no doubt that her birth came about as an act of God. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, were childless and were fast approaching the years which would place Anna beyond the age of childbearing. Perhaps it was because of the intensity of their prayers that a child be born to them that their prayers were not only answered, but their child would, in turn, bear a child ordained by God as his Son. No one who calls himself a Christian can accept the virgin birth as anything but an act of God.
Although Mary is known as the mother of God, she has been accorded numerous titles in the Orthodox Church of which few are aware. They include, in addition to Mary, Mother of God: The Repose (Koimesis) of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Pantanissa, Mary of Tinos, Mary of Malcheon, and Mary Vlacherne (just to mention a few of the many honours applied to her name). Considered the Mother of Mothers and the Mother of all Mankind, she is venerated in a manner which helps to sanctify the role of motherhood and the preservation of the family as the only hope for civilisation. In an age of equal rights, the God-given right to motherhood, which is the mainstay of Christianity, is lost in a cloud of other 'rights' that have no meaning in the presence of God. Those who clamour for those 'rights' are not aware that there is no inferiority in women, proof of which is an approach to God and a reading of the Bible as a stronger document than any constitution. It is regrettable that the immaculate conception, not to be confused with the virginal birth of the Saviour, is a concept of the Mother of God which the Roman Church assumed in 1854 and with which the Orthodox Church is in total disagreement. This concept holds that Mary was born without the stain of original sin brought upon all mankind by Adam and Eve. But the Orthodox position holds that since Jesus Christ is God, he is, therefore the only one who is without the original stain. The point could be argued endlessly; but in spite of dogmatic differences, there is no lessening in the adoration of Mary as the Mother of God. There can be no doubt that she was made pure on the day of the Annunciation when told by Gabriel she was going to be the Virgin Mother of the Messiah. The Orthodox position stems from the concept that if the immaculate conception is taken literally, then Mary would assume the stature of goddess alongside God. The popularity of the name of Mary attests to the glorification of the Virgin Mary. The Greek Orthodox can feel exultation from calling out the name "Panagia" which means 'All-Holy' and is the Greek word for the most sacred figure in Christianity, aside from the Son she mothered."
Nativity of the Theotokos ping. She's a good person to cling to any day, but especially perhaps now given what our people are suffering in the Gulf states.
" Aren't Panagia and Immaculate two sides of the same coin? One emphasizes the positive, All Holy the other emphasizes the complete lack of negative, without sin."
I suppose one could say that. Both terms are used in Orthodoxy. I have not heard the appelation "Panagia" used in the Latin Church, but I suspect it is also.
Thank you for posting this reminder of faith and mystery.
As K points out, the Greek equivalent for the Latin-based word "immaculate" is used very often in Orthodox liturgical texts for the Theotokos, as are positive appelations.
Because of an understandable (but in this case inappropriately placed) desire to avoid association with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, this word is often translated as "most pure." For instance, the most commonly used OCA translation of the hymn to the Theotokos sung at the Divine Liturgy at the end of the Anaphora says "ever blessed and most pure and the mother of our God."
The "most pure" is really better translated as "immaculate" or "blameless", because the Greek original has the absence of a negative. Of course in this hymn and elsewhere in Orthodox liturgical texts, the Theotokos is referred to as "immaculate" because she didn't commit sins during her life, not because of anything surrounding her conception.
The services tonight for the Nativity of the Theotokos were beautiful, filled with references to Eve rejoicing at the birth of the woman who would undo her tragic sin, making possible her own deliverance from Hades.
One of the beautiful things about this icon is that it contains one of the few (perhaps the only?) portrayals in iconography of marital bliss and love. In the back left is a portrayal of the loving embrace between Joachim and Anna after the angel has told Joachim that their childless state will soon be ended with a miraculous birth in their old age (depicted on the right of the icon.)
This is an example of Orthodox iconography simultaneously showing events that happened at different times: the announcement of the angel, the meeting of Joachim and Anna after that, and Anna lying after her childbirth with the infant Theotokos at her feet.
September 8 remains the Feast of the Nativity of Mary even today for the Latin Rite. I imagine Salvation will be posting the Mass readings later on today.
It's something for us poor benighted Latins to be thankful for, at least we are all together this day.
Of course, you are likely to get opposition re the date etc but that is to be expected. Our tainted nature's solitary boast is frequently demeaned because, sadly, too many Christians think honoring Mary diminishes Jesus.
BTTT on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 2005!
Thank you for these beautiful and informative posts, K! Please keep them coming.
Thanks, Agrarian. It sounds like we're in agreement that Mary is all Holy and Immaculate. The difference, which I missed on a first read, is with regards to her conception, and I suspect these differences have to do with different understandings of original sin.
Thanks for the post, Kolokotronis.
"I suspect these differences have to do with different understandings of original sin."