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Nativity of the Theotokos

Thoughts about the September 8 Feast.

Many Church Fathers, Saints and prominent Orthodox clergy have written about Thursday's Feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary.  Here are some highlights to give us a better understanding of the event and what is means for us today.

St. John Damascene

...men declined from good and degenerated; there was not one of understanding nor one who sought after God. Then His divine goodness, taking pity on the work of His hands, and wishing to save it, put an end to that mystical barrenness, that of holy Anne, I mean, and she gave birth to a child, whose equal had never been created and never can be. The end of barrenness proved clearly that the world’s sterility would cease and that the withered trunk would be crowned with vigorous and mystical life.
Hence the Mother of our Lord is announced. An angel foretells her birth. It was fitting that in this, too, she, who was to be the human Mother of the one true and living God, should be marked out above every one else...
Homily on the Nativity

St. Andrew of Crete

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.
Sermon on the Nativity

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

If in Western Christianity veneration of Mary was centered upon her perpetual virginity, the heart of Orthodox Christian East’s devotion, contemplation, and joyful delight has always been her Motherhood, her flesh and blood connection to Jesus Christ. The East rejoices that the human role in the divine plan is pivotal. The Son of God comes to earth, appears in order to redeem the world, He becomes human to incorporate man into His divine vocation, but humanity takes part in this. If it is understood that Christ’s “co-nature” with us is as a human being and not some phantom or bodiless apparition, that He is one of us and forever united to us through His and forever united to us through His humanity, then devotion to Mary also becomes understandable, for she is the one who gave Him His human nature, His flesh and blood. She is the one through whom Christ can always call Himself “The Son of Man.”
Sermon

Elder St. Paisios of Mt Athos

The Roman Catholics fall into error and believe, supposedly from piety, that Panagia was born without original sin. While Panagia was not free from original sin, she gave birth however as God wished to be born to men after creation. She was all-pure, because Her conception occurred without pleasure. The Holy Ancestors of God, after fervent prayer to God to grant them a child, conceived not by sexual lust, but by obedience to God. This fact I had experienced on Sinai.
Comments on the Nature of Her Birth

St. John of Kronstadt

 The parents of the Ever-Virgin sorrowed long over their barrenness; they prayed long and fervently to the Lord that He loose this barrenness, which was considered a punishment from God for sins. They gave much alms in order to incline the mercy of the All-Merciful, endured the reproach of their countrymen, and through this sorrow and ceaseless prayer and good works, they gradually purified their spirits, and burned ever greater with love and dedication to God, thus being prepared by God’s Providence to give blessed birth to the Most Blessed Daughter, chosen out of all people to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The Lord leads His chosen ones to glory by a narrow and sorrowful path...
Homily on the Nativity

St. Dimitri of Rostov

Palaces are usually constructed in such a manner that not only the King, but a multitude of his attendant servants and those who come to him from throughout the world may by amply accommodated. The spacious abode of the Word, the Most Pure Virgin, accommodates not only God the Word as King, but also us His servants, who draw close to God, Who dwells in her. She contains both God and us in her womb, in her compassionate bosom. The chosen and holy vessel, the Apostle Paul, moved by compassion, said to his beloved, spiritual children, "Our heart is enlarged; ye are not straitened in us." In which of the Saints may be found such all-embracing, Divine compassion as in the Virgin Mary? Here the chaste are accommodated, and the sinner is not excluded. Here the penitent has his place, while he who is despairing and unrepentant has a refuge like a new ark which shelters not only clean, but unclean animals as well; its entrance is not barred. Her compassion easily accommodates all those who sorrow, who are offended, who hunger, who are strangers, who are troubled, and who are sick. For it is not possible for her to be lacking in mercy, whose womb borefor us the Gracious God.
Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos

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