Nativity of the Theotokos

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Nativity of the Theotokos

On September 8th, we celebrate the Nativity or Birth of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. The Theotokos was born to righteous parents named Joachim and Anna. Their story is an important story in the Life of the Church as they are important figures that are remembered during the common practice of the dismissal of most services.

Joachim was from the tribe of Judah and was a descendent of King David.  Anna was the daughter of a priest, and of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.  (These two, being the only grandparents of Jesus have an important lineage that is offered for the Messiah and King of All.  Christ is a descendent of both the royal line and the priestly line.)  They lived a righteous life in which they donated 1/3 of their income to the poor, 1/3 of their income to the temple, and lived on the last third.  The couple long wanted to have a child, but they remained without child for fifty years.  They entered Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God at the Temple, but were turned away because of their barrenness.  Joachim, wondering if he was the only righteous man to never have offspring, looked at the records and discovered that all the other righteous men had been blessed with children.  Both Joachim and Anna left the temple saddened.  They prayed for a miracle like Abraham and Sarah, so that they could have a child.  Joachim out of shame stayed in the mountains rather than returning to his home and his wife, Anna, prayed in her garden.  The Archangel Gabriel announced to both of them separately that they would have a daughter.  Both Joachim and Anna promised to have their child raised in the Temple.  The two found each other and embraced and shortly thereafter conceived a child.

According to the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Theotokos’ conception and her birth are celebrated 9 months minus one day.  This is done on purpose.  St. John the Baptist’s conception and birth are celebrated 9 months plus one day.  Only Christ’s conception and birth are celebrated exactly 9 months apart (March 25th to December 25th), pointing to Him as the Perfect One.

This feast is the first Major Feast to be celebrated in the Ecclesiastical calendar, only a week after the new Ecclesiastical year.  The last celebrated Major Feast of the Ecclesiastical year is the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos.  So we begin with the Birth of the Theotokos and end with her Death, or rather the beginning of her future life.  The Church recognizes the importance of the Mother of God and we place her in honor.  The Major Feasts all have Old Testament readings associated with them, and this feast’s readings are focused on Jacob’s vision of the ladder and from Ezekiel, the east gate being shut and only being open for the Lord.  The first reading is saying that the Theotokos is the Ladder from Earth to Heaven, she is the connecting bridge between the two and she is the one who accepted God’s will to bear Him in her womb.  The second reading is speaking of her ever-virginity.  She had no children before Christ and none after, and only Christ, the King, was ever allowed entering into the world through her.

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This post was written by Andrew Athanasiou

About Andrew Athanasiou

Andrew is a student of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Andrew is a Masters of Divinity Student who is also a Seminarian. Andrew is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his knowledge comes from five major sources: Greek Orthodox Seminary; Greek Orthodox Summer Camp; both being taught and teaching in Greek Orthodox Sunday School; and finally further readings and interests in other theological areas.