THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY, THE THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY
and Anna were childless for many years but they continued steadfastly
to beseech the Lord that He would show mercy on them and remove this
burden. At that time, being childless was considered a
reproach and a humiliation. One
day, when Saint Joachim came to the temple to make an offering, he was
away by the High Priest who chastised him for his lack of children. To
hide his shame, the Saint retreated to the hill country to pray.
There he remained for a long time in constant prayer and rememberance
how God had given Patriarch Abraham offspring in his old age. He
remained away for so long that Saint Anna was afraid she would never
see him again.
As Saint Joachim
praying in the hill country, his wife, Saint Anna was
at the same time at their house in Jerusalem. Archangel Gabriel
appeared to both
of them and announced that Saint Anna would have a child whose name
known throughout the world. He commanded Saint Joachim to
return to his home in Jerusalem and the Archangel told him that Saint
Anna would be waiting for him at the Golden
Gate. When Saint
Anna saw her husband approaching she ran
to him giving thanks to the Lord. The barrenness of Saints
Joachim and Anna was overcome and they brought forth the Mother of God.
This Feast is a source of hope and great joy for all Orthodox Christians. Saints Joachim and Anna were freed from their sterility and brought into this world the Mother of God, showing us that our sterile nature can bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Not only through the prayers of Saints Joachim and Anna is our spiritual barrenness dispelled, but many childless couples that have turned in prayer to Saints Joachim and Anna have been blessed with children.
Teachings from the Service of the Feast
Today God, Who resteth upon the noetic thrones, hath made ready for Himself a holy throne upon the earth. He that established the heavens in wisdom, hath prepared a living Heaven in His love for man.
The reading from Ezekiel
43:27-44:4 presents us with one of the Old Testament
Prophecies of the ever-virginity of the Theotokos:
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, shall enter in by it, and it shall
be shut (44:2).
Proverbs 9:1-11 also presents us
with Prophecy of the Lord's choosing the Theotokos as the house in
which He will dwell, making her holier than the Temple of
Solomon. The instruction given to us in this
selection of Proverbs is the preparation for the teachings of
our Saviour as reflected in the
Epistle and Gospel readings of the Feast.
The Epistle for the feast, Philippians 2:5-11, tells us to
have the mind
of Christ, extreme humility. The humility of
Saints Joachim and Anna is seen in their patient bearing of the pain
which their barrenness brought them. We are instructed Let nothing be done through strife or
vainglory; but in lowliness of mind. The Gospel, Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28,
teaches us that the Mother of God is blessed not because she was the
Theotokos but because above all she kept the word of God.
The Theotokos is also Panagia - The
Most Holy, because she, above all, subjected herself to the Will
Icon of the Feast
The icon of the
Nativity of the Thetokos
to us the central figures of Saint Joachim, standing and pointing to
the Mother of God (1) and Saint Anna, reclining on her bed (2),
by attendants who have assisted with the birth and are preparing to
wash the newly-born infant. In many icons the meeting of
Saints Joachim and Anna at the Golden
Gate (4) is shown off to one side.
|1. The Theotokos.||2. The awe
felt by Saint Anna, the Mother of the Theotokos, is reflected in her
|3. The awe felt by Saint Joachim, the Father of the Theotokos, is reflected in his face.||4. Saint Anna met Saint Joachim at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem after each one had been told separately that God would answer their prayers|
The icon directs
attention to the Theotokos
figure in this feast (1). Saints Joachim and Anna have their eyes
set on the Mother of God, calling us to gaze upon this wonder .
The icon also conveys the mystery of the
event that was felt by
Saints Joachim and Anna as they realised that this miracle was set
apart from all previous miracles (2+3). The liturgical texts of the
acknowledge this mystery and joy. They proclaim the special role of the
Theotokos as the Mother of the Incarnate God,
With this event, another step is made in sacred history in preparation for the entrance of Christ into the world. This step, however, differs from all other previous steps in that it is the final step before the Incarnation of the Lord. The feast and the icon announce the transition from barrenness to life that is offered through Christ, the transformation from death to eternal life.Acknowledgements