Feast Days

The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady The Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary: The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.

The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since Saint Anna was barren.

Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Saints Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Saints Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.

Saint Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. Saint Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family.

The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

Joshua Trant
Church New Year

The first day of the Church New Year is also called the beginning of the Indiction. The term Indiction comes from a Latin word meaning, “to impose.” It was originally applied to the imposition of taxes in Egypt. The first worldwide Indiction was in 312 when the Emperor Constantine (May 21) saw a miraculous vision of the Cross in the sky. Before the introduction of the Julian calendar, Rome began the New Year on September 1.

According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1 to announce His mission to mankind (Luke 4:16-22). Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2), the Savior proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...” This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript (Vatican, Biblioteca. Cod. Gr. 1613, p.1).

Tradition says that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September.

Joshua Trant
Homily on the Feast of Dormition

Father Joshua Trant 

Today we witness the falling asleep of the mother of our Lord.

The Scriptures are silent concerning the events surrounding the death of the Mother of Jesus Christ. Fr. Alexander Schmemann observes that the many embellished stories and tales passed down to us from the earliest Christians about the death of the Mother of God betray a kind of childlike love and tenderness.

From the earliest days, it seems, we Christians have approached the Virgin as mother. The Church does not ask us to defend these stories as "historical fact".

On this most joyous day, the Church does not ask us to consider the date or time, nor the location or circumstance of the Virgin's death.

Rather, the Church asks us to contemplate with the utmost care the meaning of her death. The essence of which is depicted in the Dormition icon in the center of the Church today.

First, the Mother of God lies upon her deathbed. She has really and truly died. Not even her status as the Theotokos exempts her from this singular fate of all human beings. In her falling asleep, we see our end. We, too, will face death.

And who here has not already tasted the sting of this unavoidable truth through the death of a loved one, a lingering illness, or even the passing of a cherished family pet.

Take a long and steady look at the icon before you leave Church today. We cannot hide from this fact: we will die.

And so, depicted on her own deathbed, our Mother shows us the pathway we too will take when we confront our own death.

Yet, surrounding her deathbed are the apostles and in the center, her son and Lord, Jesus Christ.

We Christians do not face death alone. We may be by ourselves in a hospital room, by ourselves in a car, or by ourselves in our own homes when the hour comes, but we are not and are never alone.

When the Mother died, the Apostles gathered around her and sang praises to God as they transported her to the tomb.

So in our death, the Church will gather to sing the praises of God and beseech Him for mercy.

Our Mother shows us that in death, we do not face isolation but a glorious coming together of the saints.

In the icon, Christ holds in his hands His mother, eternally alive and united with him.

We will all face death, yet this death we celebrate today shows us how the very meaning of death has changed.

Death has not separated the Mother from her Son, but rather has ushered her into His presence.

We see in the icon that death does not lead us into oblivion or isolate us from the source of life.

Mysteriously, death has become the very means by which we are ushered into life.

There is no fear. There is no darkness. There is no bitter regret.

For in death, we finally meet the Bridegroom. The very one who has been wooing our souls from the beginning.

The Dormition of our Mother shows us that our Lord, having preceded us in death by His own death, waits for us.

And because Christ is present, even death is filled with light and joy.

The falling asleep of the Virgin is called the "deathless Dormition" because death is no longer a static state but has been transformed into a dynamic pathway that leads to life.

Today, our Mother shows us this. And shows us how we, too, might be confident in death.

The last two verses from the Gospel lesson for this Feast proclaims:
"And it happened, as [Jesus] spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

We should not confuse the order of things.

At the Annunciation, when Mary responded to the Angel Gabriel and said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word..."

Her response to the angel was not the beginning of her journey to becoming the handmaid of the Lord.

We often make the mistake of looking at the Annunciation as the beginning of her real devotion to God.

But this young woman was chosen to be Theotokos precisely because she had already prepared her heart to receive Christ.

Conceiving God in the flesh, giving birth the God-Man, uniting in her person the creator and the created...

This is the culmination of a life lived striving to hear the word of God and keep it.

We, too, must strive to hear and keep the Word of God and in a similar manner conceive of Christ within our hearts.

The Dormition icon shows us that the Mother of God died to herself and to the temporary things of the world long before her physical death.

Her death is joyous because all that entices her, all that tugs at her heart, all that she truly desires is fulfilled in the reuniting of Mother and Son.

When we leave the things we love, we grieve. But when we begin the journey home, our heart burns with joy and anticipation.

The life given over to Christ, discovers that the journey toward our own earthly end is similar. Each step of our earthly life becomes a step of joy and anticipation because each step, each experience, brings us closer to Christ.

What are we holding back?

What things do we still cling to, what things have we not surrendered to our Lord?

When we approach death, will we grieve for the stuff of earth?

Or having died to our own earthly desires, will we be able to see death in its proper light?

As a transition to life everlasting and union with our Lord and all those whom we love who have preceded us.

The Mother of God is called the "lamp of the unapproachable Light." This is our task: to become the lamp of the unapproachable Light.

To cultivate the Word of God within our hearts so that our actions and speech and thoughts shine with this unapproachable light:

The light of our Savior that offers hope and blessing and the promise of victory in death.

Joshua Trant