The Nativity of Mary, Theotokos
I would like to suggest two reasons and meanings of today’s celebration. The first is the Joy and love that the Church has always had for Jesus’ Mother from the very first days of its existence. She was indeed the Beloved Person of the first Christian community, and she remains so to every Orthodox community even to this day. This is not just a pious memory. We know that she is still living, still watching over us, still encouraging us and spiritually protecting us with her loving care. She is our Champion Leader, the first of our race to re-enter Paradise, our New Eve.
That such a human person was born into this world is a triumph to be celebrated as long as Humanity itself shall endure. Pity the ignorant and hard hearted who know nothing of her gentle power.
The second reason and meaning of our celebration is theological. The early Christians seem to have taken a certain delight in reflecting upon the significance of Mary in the “Divine Plan” of human salvation. Their thoughts have come down to us in many of the hymns that are sung at the services. For example, this hymn from Vespers:
Today is the day of the Lord!
O peoples rejoice in it! Behold,
The bridal chamber of the Light is born;
the living Bible of the Word of Life…
These two allusions to Mary as “Bridal Chamber” and “Living Bible” are just two of the many poetic theological comparisons that are used to aid us in apprehending, however imperfectly, the mystery of the Theotokos—the Mother of God Incarnate. Briefly we will take a look at these and, with God’s help, we will possibly gain a deeper appreciation of this, the First Great Feast of our New Year.
The Bridal Chamber, in the ancient world was where the marriage was consummated, where the bride and groom “came together” in the act of love that makes them “one flesh.” Mary is the bridal chamber wherein Christ the Bridegroom is united with His Bride (Humanity) and becomes Emmanuel, God with us and God as us.
In calling Mary a “Bible of the Living Word” the Church is making an allusion to the material nature of a book, the paper and ink, as being the means by which words are in a sense made visible and lasting. Christ himself becomes the living, human, Word of God, revealing in Himself, not just His words, The will of God for humanity. She will offer herself as the paper and ink by which God writes His Word as a human life—a Living, human Word.
The hymn continues as follows:
...the great Gate of the East is established awaiting
the coming of Christ the High Priest.
Today God who rests on spiritual thrones
prepares for Himself an earthly throne;
He who made the heavens with wisdom
fashions a living heaven with His love.
When Elizabeth meets Mary she cries out “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” With joy, we also cry out with amazement that such a one should be born among us. Lord, you who are the God of wondrous deeds and the Hope of things beyond hope, Glory to thee.
Wishing everyone the joy of this beautiful celebration.