Archive for the ‘Feasts of the Theotokos’ Category

A Homily/talk with the children about the Dormition. They are pretty smart!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

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Synopsis: A Homily/talk with the children about the Dormition. They are pretty smart!


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A Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos, by St John of Damascus From His Third Sermon on the Dormition

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


 

Dormition of the Mother of God, by Theophanes, http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/dormition-theophanes-the-greek-01.jpg

 

No one stands between Son and Mother. … Accept, then, my good-will, which is greater than my capacity, and give us salvation.

 

Heal our passions,

Cure our diseases,

Help us out of our difficulties,

Make our lives peaceful,

Send us the illumination of the Spirit.

Inflame us with the desire of thy son.

Render us pleasing to Him, so that we may enjoy happiness with Him, seeing thee resplendent with thy Son’s glory, rejoicing forever, keeping feast in the Church with those who worthily celebrate Him who worked our salvation through thee, Christ the Son of God, and our God.

 

To Him be glory and majesty, with the uncreated Father and the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, through the endless ages of eternity. Amen.

 

 

St John of Damascus http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/john-of-damascus-02-photios-kontoglou.jpg Excerpted from Sermon 3 on the Dormition, by St. John of Damascus

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-08-31-prayer-to-the-most-holy-theotokos-by-st-john-of-damascus-from-his-third-sermon-on-the-dormition.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-08-31-prayer-to-the-most-holy-theotokos-by-st-john-of-damascus-from-his-third-sermon-on-the-dormition.doc

 

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The Dormition troparion and kontakion in English and Church Slavonic, Exapostilarion with additional verses and Dormition stichera on “Lord I have cried” sung by the choir at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in McKinney, TX. 15/28 August 2011. Video

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

 

The Dormition trioparion and kontakion in English and Church Slavonic, sung by the choir at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in McKiiney, TX. 15/28 August 2011

http://youtu.be/dI48nUT18IQ


 

 

The Dormition Exapostilarion with additional verses, sung by the choir at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in McKiiney, TX. 15/28 August 2011

http://youtu.be/6tkoNgZHeLU


 

The Dormition stichera on "Lord I have cried" sung by the choir at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in McKiiney, TX. 15/28 August 2011

http://youtu.be/J9ghXq_i4CI

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“Mary hath chosen that good part” and “blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” Dormition of the Theotokos.

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Dormition of the Theotokos by Theopanes the Greek.

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Synopsis: The usual reading for feasts of the Mother of God is actually a composite reading in which she does not appear at all, but another "Mary" (the sister of Lazarus) is mentioned, who shares her name. The reason why is because this selection, coupled with a later part of the same Gospel succinctly sums up the virtues of the Theotokos: "Mary hath chosen that good part" and "blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." On this great day, let us examine ourselves, as to whether we have also chosen that good part, and kept the word of God. This is why we venerate the Most Holy Theotokos with such love; our veneration is in vain if we do not also emulate! Let us examine how we can accomplish this.

More homilies on the Feasts of the Theotokos are HERE

Homilies on the Paraklesis Canon to the Theotokos are HERE

Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. 27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.


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The Dormition of the Theotokos. A short talk.

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

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This Sunday was the leavetaking of the feast of the Dormition. Here is a short talk about the Dormition of the Theotokos.

  • Dormition means falling asleep
  • The Story.
  • A balanced view.
  • The intercession of the Theotokos.
  • Heresies about the Theotokos:
    • The heresy of the Theotokos as "co-mediatrix"
    • The heresies of The "Immaculate Conception" and "Original Sin" are discussed at length. VERY IMPORTANT!
  • The ever-virginity of the Theotokos explained.

If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/catechism/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2010-08-28+dormition+after-liturgy-short-talk.m3u

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Dormition Troparion, Kontakion & Exapostilarion, sung at St Nicholas.

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I forgot about this one. We are still in the festal period, so have a listen.

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtFHdVdHotE

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Feasts of the Theotokos – Dormition Explanation of the Dormition troparion.

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Feasts of the Theotokos – Dormition
Explanation of the Dormition troparion
2009

 

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; /

in thy dormition  thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. /

Thou wast translated unto life,  /

since thou art the Mother of Life, /

and by thine intercessions doest thou deliver our souls from death.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We can learn almost everything that we need to know from listening and praying in the services.

 

The Dormition troparion, “In giving birth Thou did preserve Thy virginity,” proclaims our belief, that the  Theotokos was a virgin before birth, during birth and after birth. And if you want to have this explained, then you do not understand. It is a mystery that we cannot understand, but the Church has been unanimous about this for well over a millennium, almost two millennia.

But of course we always look at the deeper meaning of things. Virginity is not just to not have intercourse with a man. Virginity is purity, it is holiness, and the Theotokos, above all human mortals that were born, preserved Her holiness and Her purity.

“In Thy dormition Thou did not forsake the world, 0 Theotokos.”

 

Dormition means “Falling asleep”. We believe and our services proclaim over and over again, that the Theotokos, being born of Adam, being of human stuff, died and was buried. And we know then that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to take Her soul with Her body to Heaven.

 
But She did die, because the services proclaimed very poetically at one point last night, that, if the Lord Jesus Christ must have gone to the Cross and died, why wouldn’t also the Theotokos also die?

So, “In Thy dormition Thou did not forsake the world, 0 Theotokos.” This also proclaims our belief not only about the Theotokos but about all the saints, about the Resurrection. She died but she has not forsaken us.

 

In this She is not unique. The saints have not forsaken us either. She is par excellence, the intercessor for the Church, but only one of many intercessors for the Church because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. So we proclaim that in Her dormition She has not forsaken us because She is not dead. And we say this emphatically.

“Thou was translated unto life, since Thou art the Mother of Life.”

 

I find it interesting in the service how it is said of her that she was “translated”, many times, but the mystery of Her being translated bodily by our Lord is sort of hinted at but not said explicitly. And I think this is because, for the mysteries of the Church, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Those who have eyes to see, let them see.” Those who do not really care about holy things will not understand this.

But those who love holy things, love the things of God, will treasure the Mother of God, Her Ever Virginity, Her holiness, Her special treatment by Her Son in which She alone, of all mortals, after Her death was escorted into the Heavenly Mansions, body and soul, by Her Savior and Her Son.

The services over and over speak about how this must be so, that She would be translated into life. She is the Mother of Life. God was within Her womb. We call Her “Platytera”  - More spacious than the Heavens. And we cannot understand this. And yet we speak of it and meditate about it in our services over and over again because it’s so magnificent, so wonderful, so terrible, that a human being, with human failings, with a need of a savior, would bear the very Savior that She and all of the human race needed. This is an amazing thing. Only those who have become holy can really understand it.

 

My namesake, Seraphim of Sarov, would pray before an icon of the Mother of God on his knees all the time. He had a great love for the Mother of God. The Mother of God visited him. He understood Her because they were of the same kind. They were holy. They had preserved their virginity, not the bodily virginity, but the spiritual virginity.

 

Alas, we must say that many times we are not preserving our virginity. Of course, with God’s help we can always regain it.

“Thou was translated unto life, since Thou art the Mother of Life, and by Thine intercessions Thou did save our souls from death.”

We believe that the Theotokos prays for us. Her intercessions to Her Savior are beneficial to us. We have a balanced view of the Mother of God.

Recently someone was asking me about differences in the services. All of the services about the Theotokos, are high feasts, highly ranked but not as highly ranked as Feasts of the Lord.

 

There are differences in Feasts of the Lord. Feasts of the Lord supersede everything. Only Feasts of the Lord have an entrance On Feasts of the Lord, all fasting is omitted on that day, with the exception of Transfiguration, but that’s during a fast. On Feasts of a Theotokos that fall on a fasting day, we can have fish, wine and oil. but we still fast from meat, cheese and eggs. This is because Her feast is of a lower rank because She is of a lower rank than God, and also highest rank of all humans. We have a balanced view of Her.

We believe  … Sometimes when I say “believe,” I remember that our society has a very poor definition of “belief.” For them, “belief” means, “I’m pretty sure this is the case.” For us, “belief” is, “We know and confess that this is true.”

 

We believe that the Mother of God prays for us, and by Her intercessions we are saved. She hears what we need. She brings our needs before Her Son. As the saints do. As the angels do. As our Guardian Angel does. But we are especially comforted that the Mother of our Lord would bring our petitions before Her Son, and we have great confidence in Her petitions, although not in our own.

The entire Dormition troparion teaches, in a nutshell, our understanding of the Theotokos. You can do this, by the way, with almost any troparion. You can see that the troparion, together with the kontakion, gives a summation of the theology of the feast.

 

She preserved Her virginity because She was pure and holy and loved God above all things. It is impossible to imagine that someone who had borne God would live a mundane life afterwards, would just be just a Jewish village woman having children and going to the market place to catch up on the latest gossip, living just a regular life. How can this be? Our services continually speak of how She was so changed that she no longer lived a mundane life.

 
Now, She was still a human being, completely human, not anything greater than human, just human. She was just like us, with failings, with misunderstandings. The Gospel shows that She did not completely understand everything all at once. But what caused Her to eventually have such profound understanding with Her Son is that She treasured everything in Her heart. So should we. We should be more like Her. We should emulate Her. We know that She preserved Her virginity. So should we.

We have confidence in the Resurrection. So we know that Her intercessions are heard by our Savior and help to save us.

May God, through the prayers of the Theotokos, save us, Amen.

 

Transcribed by the handmaiden Helen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2009-08-28+dormition+explanation-of-the-dormition-troparion.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_2009-08-28+dormition+explanation-of-the-dormition-troparion.doc

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Dormition hymns: The Furnace and the Theotokos. The Three Holy Children. The Angel of the Lord.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009


 

The Three Holy Children.

The Angel of the Lord.

Dormition hymns: The Furnace and the Theotokos

The Best time to hear the hymns of the church.

Everything depends on our disposition.

Aug 13/26 2009 Two Days before Dormition.

 

 

The Three Holy Children, in the furnace, with the "Angel of the Lord", the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

 

The almighty Angel of God showed forth for the youths a flame which bedewed the venerable and utterly consumed the ungodly; and He made the Theotokos a life-creating well-spring pouring forth destruction for death and life for them that chant: O ye who have been delivered, let us hymn and exalt the one Creator for all ages! (Dormition matins, Canon, Irmos, Ode VIII)

 

 

I am amazed at how often the hymns at the end of vigil seem so much more profound and beautiful than those at the beginning. I do not think they are of substantially higher quality, although it could be argued that the “Canon” is the masterpiece of all Orthodox hymnology, but I do believe that WE are of higher quality! Standing (sitting, pacing, having an itch, having your mind wander, thinking about how your feet hurt, getting hungry, etc, etc) during the vigil prepares us for holy moments when something being chanted seems to permeate to the very depths of our soul.

 

We are not “quiet” at the beginning of vigil. Our souls are coarse, noisy. It takes some seasoning for us to be prepared to “sit at the feet” of our Lord, and contemplate the one thing needful. Towards the end of vigil, we have quieted down somewhat, and are prepared for something fantastic, although ineffable and invisible, and perhaps even barely discernable, to happen in our soul.

 

If you have not experienced this type of “Theophany” during the evening service, then come to vigil – all of it, as often as can. It will happen for you, but I warn you, if you are not accustomed to long vigils, you will have many attacks that make you want to leave. You cannot feel anything until you are made ready. This will take consistency, and TIME. Don’t expect the first or even the thirtieth vigil in a row that you attend to bring you great consolation, but it will come if you are patient.

 

Here before us we have a holy metaphor. The Theotokos, amidst her many other names (“jar of manna, “gate that remained shut“, “ever-virgin“, “rod that budded“, etc) is now likened to a furnace.

 

The furnace in which the three youths were cast contained flame, and then was visited by the divine flame, the “Angel of the Lord”, who is none other than Jesus Christ, in an appearance before His bodily incarnation (when you see “Angel of the Lord” in the OT, translate this to “Jesus Christ”).

 

The Theotokos is the furnace that also contained the Divine Flame, Jesus Christ, however in her case, He is fully incarnate, God and man. In both furnaces, the flame burns the ungodly and refreshes those who love God (which the hymn calls "venerable").

 

God is the same, to the righteous and unrighteous. The action of the fire in the furnace demonstrates this truth. The Chaldeans who were feeding the furnace we slain by the flames, but the three holy youths considered them to be a “moist dew”. It is the same with the Divine flame, Jesus Christ.  The ungodly are burned, and the righteous are refreshed.

 

The recent feast of the Transfiguration should teach us that becoming righteous is a process of long duration and great difficulty; we are not immediately ready to be in the presence of God after our baptism because we have not changed enough yet. The three apostles were terrified and confused in the presence of the uncreated Divine Light. They eventually were ready, but not until great trials, difficulties, falls and repentance. How can it be any different for us poor ones?

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-08-26_dormition-hymns+three-holy-children-in-the-furnace.doc and

http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2009/08/26/dormition-hymn…-the-theotokosdormition-hymns-the-furnace-and-the-theotokos/

 

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Entry of the Theotokos Nov 21/Dec 4. Homily by St Gregory Palamas: DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

 Link: http:///www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_+entry-of-the-theotokos+by-saint-gregory-palamas.html

 

READ THIS CAREFULLY!  IT IS CHRISTOLOGY 101.  I hope to discuss this after Liturgy this weekend.

Entry of the Theotokos, from St John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington DC - http://www.stjohndc.org/icons/209.htm

 

 

If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Lk. 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.

In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.

The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.

It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St. Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, "the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).

Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.

As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God’s creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.

It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvellous way. But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature,Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called "sons of God," because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.

And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy. But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a foretype of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendents of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God. It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice.This was Enos, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).

In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage. When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised. So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.

Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God. And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, … She, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner She showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.

So it is, and this is why She, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. She Who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving … the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father. Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before birth, and also after birth.

We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability. And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked" (Lk. 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?

Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things. Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit. Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure. Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away. Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished. Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessable places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.

Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Presentation of the Theotokos – Nov 21/ Dec 4

Thursday, December 4th, 2008


I need to fly out the door for liturgy in a few moments, but I wanted to at least share a little about today’s feast now, because I may not be back at the computer for quite a long time today. I hope very much to write more about this feast, because it is one of the wonderful, deeply theological and "quiet" feasts of the year, and we should understand it. I had many ideas last night, after listening to the parables of Vespers and the entire Vigil service (especially the canons at matins, well sung by Reader Nicholas and Natalia Hawthorne), but unfortunately, the ideas in my head have much trouble making it into print when it is late at night.

 

Here is something from a sermon by St Gregory Palamas on this feast:

 








Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

 

The entire homily is masterful, and you may read it here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_+entry-of-the-theotokos+by-saint-gregory-palamas.html



Also, a little about one of the parables of Vespers. On feasts, we have at least three readings at Vespers, usually from the OT.  If I get time, I really want to expand on these readings.

 








Ezekiel 43:27-44:4  27 And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD. 1 Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. 2 Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. 3 It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same. 4 Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face.

 

This gate is understood by the church to refer to none other than the Holy Theotokos. Her birth-giving was unique among all of mankind, since she bore the “prince”, and there would never be another such birth, thus the gate was shut. The closed gate also references her ever-virginity; after the birth of Jesus, she has no more children, and did not even have carnal relations with Joseph. 

 

The gate faced east because Christ, referred to here as the “LORD, the God of Israel” is the “dayspring from the East”. This is the direction that represents holiness; to this day we situate our altar tables so that when the priest stands before it he faces to the East, and it is the custom to, if it is possible, to have our icon corners face to the East. Our dead are also buried such that they face east, that is, so that if they were to stand up, they would be facing east. In the Second coming, Christ will come from the East.

 

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