Sept 8/21 2009
O wondrous miracle! / The well-spring of Life is born of the barren woman, / and grace beginneth to produce splendid fruit. / Be glad, O Joachim, / as thou art the father of the Theotokos! / There is none to compare with thee among mortal parents, O God-pleaser! / For the Maiden who contained God, / the divine dwelling-place, the all-holy mountain, // hath been given to us by thee! (Nativity of the Theotokos, Matins, Praises, Tone I, spec. mel.: "O wondrousmiracle")
Reader Nicholas and I discussed this sticheron at vigil tonight. We agree that an exegesis of the phrase “and grace beginneth to produce splendid fruit” would be very interesting and edifying.
I think that the “grace” mentioned is that which caused a barren woman (St Anna) to be with child, and the “splendid fruit” is the Theotokos, being formed in Anna’s womb.
Another interpretation, is, after the “well-spring of life is (has been) born”, the grace of God is working within her (the Theotokos) to prepare her to produce the “splendid fruit”, the God-man, Jesus Christ
In either case, the sheer beauty of the thoughts in this sticheron is a balm to the soul.
How can we mortals, with our small thoughts understand how the Theotokos could become a “divine dwelling place”? We know this to be true, although we cannot understand it, because we are not holy. It is a Christian dogma that Mary, a mortal woman, gave birth to God, that is, Jesus Christ, God and man. How can this be? We can sing ten thousand hymns and never understand it, but we do not need to completely understand beauty to be profoundly moved and changed by it.
The last reference to the Theotokos in this hymn is that she is “the all-holy mountain” This is from the psalms:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. (2) The city of the great King is well planted on the mountains of Sion, with the joy of the whole earth, on the sides of the north. (Psalm 47:1-2, Sept, Brenton)
Our services are full of references to the Theotokos as the “all-holy mountain”. Another similar psalm verse that is a “type” of the Theotokos is:
The mountain of God is a butter mountain, a curdled mountain, a butter mountain. Why suppose ye that there be other curdled mountains? This is the mountain wherein God is pleased to dwell, yea, for the Lord will dwell therein to the end. (Psalm 67:15-16, Sept, Boston)
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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