Homily On The Nativity Of The Most Pure Theotokos

By St. Demetrius, Metropolitan of Rostov

Theotokos & Ever-Virgin MaryThe Lord, Who lives in the heavens, wishing to appear on earth and abide with men, first prepared a dwelling place of His glory: His Most Pure Mother. For it is the custom of kings that in whatsoever city they desire to live, a place of residence be prepared for them beforehand. And as the palaces of earthly kings are constructed by the most skilled craftsmen, of the most costly materials, and on the most elevated sights, which are more beautiful and spacious than all the other dwellings of men, in the same manner the palace of the King of Glory must be erected. In the Old Testament, when God desired to dwell in Jerusalem, Solomon built a temple for Him, employing Hiram, a most wise master, who possessed full knowledge of every art and science, and was skilled in every enterprise.

He constructed the temple with materials of great value: with costly stone, with aromatic woods of cedar and cypress brought from Lebanon, with pure gold, and upon a high place: that is, upon Mount Moriah. The temple was of great beauty. On its walls were portrayed the likeness of cherubims, and of various trees and ?owers. The temple was so spacious that the whole Israelite people could be accommodated without crowding, and the glory of the Lord would descend in ?re and a cloud. Nevertheless, that temple did not suffice to contain within itself the Uncontainable God, for even though Solomon built Him a temple,

“The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands. ‘What house will ye build me’, saith the Lord: ‘or what is the place of my rest?'”

At the beginning of the new era of grace, the Lord was pleased to create a temple not made by hands: the Most Pure, Most Blessed Virgin Mary. By what builder was this temple erected? In truth, by One most wise; by the very Wisdom of God, as the Scripture says,

“Wisdom hath built itself a temple.”

All things created by the Wisdom of God are good and perfect, therefore, as it was the Wisdom of God that created the living temple of the Word (as she saith of herself through the words of the Holy Spirit, “The Lord established me in the beginning of His way”) it was not possible that in her there could be any sort of imperfection or sin. The Perfect God created a perfect temple; the Most Radiant King, a most radiant palace; for the Most Pure and Undefiled Bridegroom, a bridal chamber most pure and undefiled; for the Spotless Lamb, an unsullied dwelling place. A Faithful Witness abiding in the heavens said to her,

“You are most fair, my love; there is no spot in you.” And the Holy Damascene says, “She is is wholly the bridal chamber of the Spirit, wholly the city of God, a sea of Grace, wholly good, close to God.”

With what materials was this palace built? In truth, with the most costly, for she, being like precious stone, was of royal lineage, descended from David, who placed a stone in his sling, and with it killed Goliath. The stone foreshadowed the Stone that is Christ, fashioned, as it were, from aromatic woods, of cedar and cypress. The Virgin Theotokos was born of priestly ancestors as well, who offered God sweet smelling sacrifices. Her father, the Holy Righteous Joachim, was the son of Barpather, who traced his ancestry to Nathan, the son of David. Her mother, the Holy Righteous Anna, was the daughter of Matthan the priest, who was of the line of Aaron. Thus, the Most Pure Virgin was by her father of royal descent, and by her mother, of high priestly lineage.

Of what precious materials, from what an ancestry was the most illustrious, animate palace of the King of Glory fashioned! As structures built of stone and wood in Solomon’s palace were esteemed all the more for the pure gold with which they were covered, so in the case of the Nativity of the Most Pure Theotokos, the nobility of her royal and high-priestly lineage is rendered yet more honorable by the chastity of her holy parents, which is more to be valued

“than thousands of gold and silver. She is more precious than costly stones, and nothing that is dear is to be compared to her,”

for the Most Pure Virgin was born of parents possessed of chastity, which is loftier than all nobility, was, as the Holy Damascene testifies, writing of the Righteous Ancestors of God thus,

“O blessed couple Joachim and Anna! Truly, by the fruit of your loins are you known to be blameless, according to the words of the Lord, ‘You shall know them by their fruits. ‘You ordered your lives in a manner pleasing to God, and worthy of her who was born of you. Having lived in chastity and righteousness, you brought forth the treasury of virginity, the Virgin, who was a virgin before giving birth, as she gave birth, and even after she gave birth. She alone, being in mind and soul, and body ever a virgin, abides always in virginity. It was fitting that this virginity, be born of chastity. Like a pair of doves, Joachim and Anna! You, having chastely observed the laws of nature, have been granted by God that which is above nature, and have brought into the world the Virgin Mother of God. While in the flesh, you have piously and virtuously borne a daughter who is higher than the angels and reigns over them. Most fair and sweet Daughter! Lily, sprung up in the midst of tares from a root most noble and august! By you the royal priesthood has been enriched!”

With words such as these does the Holy Damascene clearly indicate the manner of parents who bore the Mother of God, and of what costly materials the palace of the Heavenly King was erected.

Where was this living palace built? In a most exalted place, as the Church testifies, saying,

“Truly you are higher than all things, O Pure Virgin.”

Nevertheless, it was not so in respect to locality, but rather her virtues and God’s benefactions. The place where the Most Blessed Virgin was born was a little town in the land of Galilee called Nazareth, which was subject to the city of Capernaum. It was inglorious and obscure, and its inhabitants were held in disdain, even as it was once said of Christ,

“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

But the Lord,

“Who dwells on high and looks down on things that are lowly,”

was well pleased that His Most Pure Mother be born not in Capernaum, which in its pride was lifted up to heaven, but rather in humble Nazareth, indicating that that ‘which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God,” while that which is despised and disdained by them is regarded by Him as lofty and honorable. Moreover, by its very name Nazareth hints the height of the virtues of the Most Pure Virgin. For as by His nativity in Bethlehem, which name means “House of Bread”, the Lord mystically signified that He is the Bread come down from heaven for the life and strength of men.

So by the birth of His Most Pure Mother in Nazareth He denotes sublime things. For the name “Nazareth” means a blossoming place, sacred, removed from the things of this world, adorned as it were, with a crown, and guarded.

All these epithets are clearly applicable to the Most Pure Virgin, for she is the flower sprung up from the withered tree of a barren and aged womb, which has renewed our nature which has shriveled with age. She is the flower which does not wilt, but ever blossoms with virginity. She is the most fragrant flower, giving birth to the fragrance of the only King. She is the flower which bears the Fruit which is Christ the Lord, the flower which alone has borne the fragrant Apple. She is sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit which has descended upon her and has overshadowed her. She is the holiest of all the saints, as she has borne the Word, Who Himself is more holy than all the Saints. She is excluded from the ranks of the sinners of this world, for throughout her life not even once did she know sin.

All of us must say with David,

“I know mine iniquity and my sin is ever before me,”

but she alone can say,

“Without iniquity I ran, and directed my steps.”

She is the guide of all men, who hath not only committed no sin herself, but also turns sinners from wicked deeds, even as the Church cries out to her,

“Rejoice, you who dost rescues us from the works of mire.”

She is crowned with glory and honor; crowned with glory, because she has blossomed from a royal root; crowned with honor, because she has sprung from a high-priestly line. She is crowned with glory, having come forth from glorious, chaste and righteous parents. She is crowned with honor, for she was esteemed worthy of the Angel’s glad tidings and his attendance. She is crowned with glory, as the Mother of God, for what could be more glorious than to bear God? She is crowned with honor as the Ever-Virgin, for what could be more honorable than to remain a virgin even after giving birth?

She is crowned with glory, more glorious than the Seraphim, possessed of love for God like that of the Seraphim. She is crowned with honor, more honorable than the Cherubim, having surpassed the Seraphim in wisdom and knowledge of the Divinity.

“Glory, honor and peace to every man who works good,”

says the Apostle, and who among the earthborn surpasses the Most Pure Virgin in deeds of virtue? Having fulfilled all the commandments of the Lord, having done all HIs will, observed all His injunctions, kept all His sayings in her heart, and performed every sort of good deed to her neighbors, she is worthy to be crowned, as one who works all manner of good. She is likewise a repository, in which the treasure of her virginal chastity is guarded so carefully, that not even unto the Angel did she wish to entrust it. Upon seeing the Angel, she was troubled at his words, and considered in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. All these things concerning the Most Pure Virgin are signified by the Name “Nazareth.”

Who would not affirm that lofty palace of Christ has been greatly exalted through her virtues and God’s blessings? She is exalted, for she has been bestowed on us from heaven, albeit she was born on earth of earthly parents. She was bestowed from heaven, for as certain theologians say, the Archangel Gabriel, who brought glad tidings to Zacharias concerning John, and who likewise announced to Joachim and Anna the conception of the Theotokos, conveyed from heaven her most blessed name, saying unto her barren mother,

“Anna, Anna, you shall bear a most blessed daughter, and her name shall be Mary.”

Undoubtedly, she can be called the holy city; the new Jerusalem, descended from God out of heaven, and the tabernacle of God in men’s midst. Lofty is this divine tabernacle, for having borne Christ the King, it is exalted above the Seraphim. O

“height hard to climb for the thoughts of men!”

With what sort of beauty is this noetic palace of Christ adorned? Listen to the sweet words John of Damascus, who speaks of her thus,

“She was offered to God, the King of All, clad in the splendor of virtues, as it were, in a vesture of gold, and adorned in the grace of the Holy Spirit. All her glory is within, for while every wife derives glory from without, from her husband, the glory of the Theotokos is from within, that is to say, the Fruit of her womb.

And again he says,

“O Virgin, full of God’s grace, O holy temple of God, which the Solomon who created the world has erected and in which He has dwelt! Not with gold, nor with inanimate stones are you adorned. In stead of gold the Spirit shines in you; in place of precious stones, you have Christ within you, the Pearl of great price.

Such is the adornment of this palace, the beauty of which far exceeds that of Solomon’s temple, in which were depicted the Cherubim, trees, and flowers. Likewise, in this animate temple, in the Most Pure Virgin, a semblance to the Cherubim may be seen; for by her manner of life, which was like that of the Cherubim, she was not only the equal of the of the Cherubim, but surpassed them. If the Church frequently refers to other Saints as Cherubim, singing,

“What shall we call you, O Saints? Cherubim, for Christ has rested upon you,”

how much more is the Virgin Theotokos like a Cherub? for within her Christ abode in the flesh, and in her most immaculate hands God sat as though upon a throne: Therefore is she called a Cherubic throne. Moreover, in her person the likeness of fertile trees is depicted, for spiritually she is like a fruitful olive tree or a blooming date-palm in the house of the Lord. Therefore, she is now called the life-giving garden, as the Church sings ,

“From a barren root the God of wonders has made a life-bearing garden to spring up for us: His Mother.”

All this is said in respect to her spiritual beauty, but she was not lacking in physical beauty. Many of the teachers of the Church testify that there has never been, nor shall ever be a virgin as fair as the Virgin Theotokos. When Saint Dionysius the Areopagite saw her, he would have called her God, had he not known that God was born of her. The Divine grace,with which she was filled, shone forth brilliantly from her face. Such was the palace which the Heavenly King prepared beforehand on earth! She was beautiful in both soul and body,

“as a bride adorned for her husband,”

and, what is more, exceeding spacious:

“Your womb He made more spacious than the heavens, and therein Christ, God uncontainable, has been contained.”

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 bore for us the Gracious God.

The palaces of earthly kings are guarded by armed guards, who do not allow everyone desirous to enter therein to do so, but rather stop and carefully question everyone as to why they have come. But as for the living palace of Christ, although she is surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim, by the innumerable choirs of Angels, and by all the Saints, at the doors of her compassionate mercy no one hinders anyone who desirous of entering, neither do the guards expel anyone, nor do soldiers drive anyone away after having questioned him as to why he has come, but having prayerfully entered, he receives a gift which profits him according to his petition.

Thus, let us hasten to the compassionate bosom of her who was born of a barren womb, hailing her thus,

“Rejoice, O immaculate palace of the King of All! Rejoice, dwelling place of God and of the Word! To Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to you, O Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Bride of the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory from us mortals unto the ages, Amen


The 14,000 Holy Innocents

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

holy-innocents-11When the Magi from the east did not return to Jerusalem from Bethlehem to inform Herod about the newborn King but rather, at the angel’s command, returned to their homeland another way, Herod became as enraged as a wild beast and ordered all the children two years old and under in Bethlehem and its surroundings to be killed.

This frightening command of the king was carried out to the letter. His soldiers beheaded some of the children with swords, smashed others against stones, trampled others underfoot, and strangled others with their hands. And the cries and wails of the mothers rose to heaven, lamentation, and bitter weeping;

“Rachel weeping for her children” (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18),

as had been prophesied.

innocentsThis crime against the multitude of innocent children was carried out a year after the birth of Christ, at the time when Herod was seeking to find the Divine Child. He asked Zacharias about his son John, so that he might kill him, since he naturally thought that John was the new king. As Zacharias did not turn John over, he was slain in the Temple by order of Herod. St. Symeon the God-Receiver would also have been murdered soon after the Presentation in the Temple, had he not already reposed in God.

After murdering the children of Bethlehem, Herod turned against the Jewish elders who had revealed to him where the Messiah would be born. He then killed Hyrcanes, the high priest, and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin. Thus, they who had agreed with Herod that the new Child-king must be killed came to an evil end. After that, Herod murdered his brother, sister, wife and three sons.

innocents of BethlehemFinally, God’s punishment came to him: he began to tremble, his legs became swollen, the lower part of his body became putrid, and worms came out of the sores; his nose became blocked and an unbearable stench emanated from him. Before his last breath, he remembered that there were many captive Jews in prison, and he ordered that they all be killed so that they would not rejoice in his death.

Thus, this terrible ruler gave up his inhuman soul and handed it over to the devil for eternal possession.




Sermon on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary

by St. Andrew of Crete

Our father among the saints Andrew of Crete, was Archbishop of Crete at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th. He was a true luminary of the Church, a great hierarch—a theologian, teacher and hymnographer, best known for writing the Great Canon.

The present Feast is for us the beginning of feasts.

Serving as boundary to the law and to prototypes, at the same time it serves as a doorway to grace and truth. “For Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4), Who, having freed us from the letter (of the law), raises us to spirit.

Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, has changed the letter in spirit and gathers everything in Himself (Eph 1:10), enlivening the law with grace: grace has taken the law under its dominion, and the law has become subjected to grace, so that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only so that by Divine power, the servile and subservient (in the law) are transformed into the light and free (in grace), so that we are not “in bondage to the elements of the world” (Gal 4:3) and not in a condition under the slavish yoke of the letter of the law.

Here is the summit of Christ’s beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinization] assumed upon humankind, the fruition worked out by the God-Man.

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.

The present day solemnity is a line of demarcation, separating the truth from its prefigurative symbol, and ushering in the new in place of the old. Paul, that Divine Trumpet of the Spirit, exclaims about this: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things pass away and behold, all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17); for the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw near to God” (Heb 7:19). The truth of grace has shown forth brightly.

Let there now be one common festal celebration in both heaven and on earth. Let everything now celebrate, that which is in the world and that beyond the world. Now is made the created temple for the Creator of all; and creation is readied into a new Divine habitation for the Creator. Now our nature having been banished from the land of blessedness receives the principle of theosis and strives to rise up to the highest glory.

Now Adam offers from us and for us elements unto God, the most worthy fruit of mankind: Mary, in Whom the new Adam is rendered Bread for the restoration of the human race. Now is opened the great bosom of virginity, and the Church, in the matrimonial manner, places upon it a pure, truly spotless pearl.

Now human worthiness accepts the gift of the first creation and returns to its former condition; the majesty darkened by formless sin, through the conjoining by His Mother by birth “of Him Beauteous by Goodness,” man receives beauty in a most excellent and God-seemly visage. And this creating is done truly by the creation, and recreation by theosis, and theosis by a return to the original perfection!

Now a barren one has become a mother beyond expectation, and the Theotokos has given birth without knowing man, and She sanctifies natural birth. Now the majestic color of the Divine purple is readied and impoverished human nature is clothed in royal worthiness. Now, according to prophecy, sprouts forth the Offshoot of David, Who, having eternally become the green-sprouting Staff of Aaron, has blossomed forth for us with the Staff of Power: Christ.

Now from Judah and David is descended a Virgin Maiden, rendering of Herself the royal and priestly worthiness of Him Who has taken on the priesthood of Aaron according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 7:15). Now the renewal of our nature is begun, and the world responding, assuming a God-seemly form, receives the principle of a second Divine creation.

The first creation of mankind occurred from the pure and unsullied earth; but their nature darkened its innate worthiness, they were deprived of grace through the sin of disobedience; for this we were cast out of the land of life and, in place of the delights of Paradise, we received temporal life as our inheritance by birth, and with it the death and corruption of our race.

All started to prefer earth to heaven, so that there remained no hope for salvation, beyond the utmost help. Neither the natural nor the written law, nor the fiery reconciliative sayings of the prophets had power to heal the sickness. No one knew how to rectify human nature and by what means it would be most suitable to raise it up to its former worthiness, so long as God the Author of all did not deign to reveal to us another arranged and newly-constituted world, where the pervasive form of the old poison of sin is annihilated, and granting us a wondrous, free and perfectly dispassionate life, through our re-creation in the baptism of Divine birth.

But how would this great and most glorious blessing be imparted to us, so in accord with the Divine commands, if God were not to be manifest to us in the flesh, not subject to the laws of nature, nor deign to dwell with us in a manner known to Him? And how could all this be accomplished, if first there did not serve the mystery a Pure and Inviolate Virgin, Who contained the Uncontainable, in accord with the law, yet beyond the laws of nature? And could some other virgin have done this besides She alone, Who was chosen before all others by the Creator of nature?

This Virgin is the Theotokos, Mary, the Most Glorious of God, from Whose womb the Most Divine came forth in the flesh, and by Whom He Himself arranged a wondrous temple for Himself. She conceived without seed and gave birth without corruption, since Her Son was God, though also He was born in the flesh, without mingling and without travail.

This Mother, truly, avoided that which is innate to mothers but miraculously fed Her Son, begotten without a man, with milk. The Virgin, having given birth to the One seedlessly conceived, remained a pure Virgin, having preserved incorrupt the marks of virginity. And so in truth She is named the Mother of God; Her virginity is esteemed and Her birth-giving is glorified. God, having joined with mankind and become manifest in the flesh, has granted Her a unique glory. Woman’s nature suddenly is freed from the first curse, and just as the first brought in sin, so also does the first initiate salvation also.

But our discourse has attained its chief end, and I, celebrating now and with rejoicing sharing in this sacred feast, I greet you in the common joy. The Redeemer of the human race, as I said, willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: just as the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, where He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His Incarnation upon the earth, and so to speak, in place of dust He chooses out of all the creation this Pure and Immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind in His Chosen One from among mankind, the Creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old.

Who indeed was This Virgin and from what sort of parents did She come? Mary, the glory of all, was born of the tribe of David, and from the seed of Joachim. She was descended from Eve, and was the child of Anna. Joachim was a gentle man, pious, raised in God’s law. Living prudently and walking before God he grew old without child: the years of his prime provided no continuation of his lineage. Anna was likewise God-loving, prudent, but barren; she lived in harmony with her husband, but was childless. As much concerned about this, as about the observance of the law of the Lord, she indeed was daily stung by the grief of childlessness and suffered that which is the usual lot of the childless — she grieved, she sorrowed, she was distressed, and impatient at being childless.

Thus, Joachim and his spouse lamented that they had no successor to continue their line; yet the spark of hope was not extinguished in them completely: both intensified their prayer about the granting to them of a child to continue their line. In imitation of the prayer heard of Hannah (1 Kings 1: 10), both without leaving the temple fervently beseeched God that He would undo her sterility and make fruitful her childlessness. And they did not give up on their efforts, until their wish be fulfilled. The Bestower of gifts did not contemn the gift of their hope. The unceasing power came quickly in help to those praying and beseeching God, and it made capable both the one and the other to produce and bear a child. In such manner, from sterile and barren parents, as it were from irrigated trees, was borne for us a most glorious fruition — the all-pure Virgin.

The constraints of infertility were destroyed — prayer, upright manner of life, these rendered them fruitful; the childless begat a Child, and the childless woman was made an happy mother. Thus the immaculate Fruition issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God. The priest, then making the order of services, beheld the face of the girl and of those in front of and behind, and he became gladdened and joyful, seeing as it were the actual fulfillment of the Divine promise.

He consecrated Her to God, as a reverential gift and propitious sacrifice — and, as a great treasury unto salvation, he led Her within the very innermost parts of the temple. Here the Maiden walked in the upright ways of the Lord, as in bridal chambers, partaking of heavenly food until the time of betrothal, which was preordained before all the ages by Him Who, by His unscrutable mercy, was born from Her, and by Him Who before all creation and time and expanse Divinely begat Him, and together with His consubstantial and co-reigning and co-worshipped Spirit — this being One Godhead, having One Essence and Kingdom, inseparable and immutable and in which is nothing diverse, except the personal qualities. Wherefore, in solemnity and in song I do offer the Mother of the Word the festal gift; since that He born of Her hath taught me to believe in the Trinity: the Son and Word Without-Beginning hath made in Her His Incarnation; the Father begetting Him hath blessed this; the Holy Spirit hath signed and sanctified the womb which incomprehensibly hath conceived.

Now is the time to question David: in what did the God of all forswear him? Speak, O Psalmist and Prophet! He hath sworn from the fruit of my loin to sit upon my throne (Ps 131/132:11). Here in this He is forsworn and wilt not break His oath, He hath forsworn and His Word is sealed with a deed! “Once — said he — I forswear by My Holiness, that I lie not to David; his seed wilt prevail forever, and his throne, like the sun before Me and like the moon coursing the ages: a faithful witness also in heaven” (Ps 88/89:35-38). God hath fulfilled this oath, since it is not possible for God to lie (Heb 6:18). Consider this: Christ in the flesh is named my Son (Mt. 22: 42), and all nations will worship my Lord and Son (Ps 71/72:11), seeing him sit upon a virginal throne! Here also is the Virgin, from Whose womb the Pre-eternal One issued forth, incarnated at the end of the ages and renewing the ages, likewise sprung forth from my loins! All this is so!

People of God, holy nation, sacred gathering! Let us revere our paternal memory; let us extol the power of the mystery! Each of us, in the measure given by grace, let us offer a worthy gift for the present feast. Fathers — a prosperous lineage; mothers — fine children; the unbearing — the not-bearing of sin; virgins — a twofold prudence, of soul and of body; betrothed — praiseworthy abstinence. If anyone of you be a father, let him imitate the father of the Virgin; and if anyone be without child — let them make harvest of fruitful prayer, cultivating a life pleasing to God. The mother, feeding her children, let her rejoice together with Anna, raising her Child, given to her in infertility through prayer.

She that is barren, not having given birth, lacking the blessing of a child, let her come with faith to the God-given Offshoot of Anna and offer there her barrenness. The virgin, living blamelessly, let her be a mother by discourse, adorning by word the elegance of soul. For a betrothed — let her offer mental sacrifice from the fruits of prayer. All together rich and poor, lads and maidens, old and young (Ps 48:2, 148:12), priests and levites — let all together keep the feast in honor of the Maiden, the Theotokos and the Prophetess: from Her has issued forth the Prophet, foretold by Moses, Christ God and Truth (Dt 18:15). Amen.