The 8th of the month, Nativity of our SOVEREIGN LADY
the most Holy MOTHER of GOD and ever Virgin MARY
Man was made by God and placed in Paradise that his sole care might be to bring forth good fruit and to contemplate God his Creator through His works. But Adam was driven out of the garden of delights through the envy of the Devil, who deceived Eve the first woman, and caused Adam to sin. Later God gave the Law to men by Moses, and made
known His will by the Prophets, in preparation for the greater blessing of the Incarnation of His only Son, the Word of God, who would deliver us from the nets of the Evil one.
In taking our nature upon Himself, Christ wished to share fully our fallen state
but without sin, for He alone is without sin, being the Son of God. For this reason, he prepared for Himself a spotless habitation, an immaculate ark, the Most Holy Virgin Mary who, although she too was subject to death and the condemnation of our first parents, yet she was chosen by God before all ages to be the new Eve, the Mother of Christ the Saviour, the well-spring of our redemption and tile archetype of all Christian holiness.
On her father’s side, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was of the royal line of David through his son Nathan who begot Levi, who begot Melchi and Panther, who begot Barpanther, who begot Joachim who was the father of the Mother of God. Anna, the wife of Joachim, was also of David’s lineage for she was the grand-daughter of Mattha, who was himself the grandson of David through Solomon. Mattha married a certain Mary of the tribe of Judah, and they had a son named Jacob, the father of Joseph the carpenter, and three daughters, Mary, Sovia and Anna. Mary gave birth to Salome the midwife, Sovia to Elizabeth the mother of the Forerunner, and Anna to the Mother of God.
God in His wisdom showed the barrenness of human nature before the coming of Christ by leaving Joachim and Anna childless until they were very old. Joachim, who was both rich and devout, prayed without ceasing, and offered gifts to God that He would deliver his wife and himself from their reproach among men. One feast day, he had gone to the Temple to present his offering, when one of the congregation of the tribe of Reuben
turned to him and said, ‘You are not allowed to offer with us because you have no child.’ These words cut Joachim to the heart and, instead of returning home, he went up into a mountain alone to pray and weep while, at the same hour, Anna too was shedding abundant tears and fervently imploring Heaven.
Our God, who is rich in mercy and full of compassion, heard their entreaties and sent the messenger of His benevolence and herald of our salvation, the Archangel Gabriel, to Anna. He announced that she would conceive in her old age and bear a child, who
would be the praise of the whole earth. Full of joy and amazement she exclaimed, ‘As the Lord my God lives, whether the child I bear be a son or a daughter, I will consecrate it to the Lord my God to serve Him all the days of its life.’ Joachim too was visited by an Angel and told to lead his flocks homeward, and to rejoice with his wife and all their house, because God had determined to put an end to their reproach.
When nine months had passed, Anna gave birth, and asked the midwife, ‘Whom have I brought into the world’?’ (A daughter’, she replied. ‘My soul has been magnified this day,’ exclaimed Anna and gently laid the child down. And when the days of her purification according to the Law were accomplished, she arose, washed, gave suck to the child and called her Mary, the name obscurely awaited by the Patriarchs, the Prophets and the Righteous, and by which God would reveal the mystery hidden
from all eternity.
The child grew strong and her mother placed her on the ground when she was six months old, to see if she would stand up. Confidently, Mary took seven paces and then turned back and clung to her mother’s breast. Anna lifted her up saying, ‘As the Lord my God lives, you shall tread on the ground no more until I take you into the Temple of the Lord.’ Her mother kept the room where the child was as a holy place, and no unlovely or unclean thing entered there, and she brought daughters of Hebrews of pure lineage to play with the child.
When the child was one year old, Joachim gave a great feast. He invited the priests, the scribes and all the Council and people of Israel. He presented Mary to the priests, and they blessed her saying,’God of our fathers bless this little child and give her an
everlasting name to be named of all generations.’ And all the people responded, ‘Let it be so, let it be so! Amen.’ Joachim also presented her to the high priest, who blessed her saying, ‘God of infinite majesty, look down upon this little child and grant her a
blessing, supreme and beyond compare.’
Then her mother carried Mary into the holy place kept for her and gave her the breast, singing to the Lord this hymn, ‘I will sing to the Lord my God, for He has visited me and taken away the reproach of my enemies. For the Lord has given me the fruit of His righteousness, at once simple and multiple in its operation. Who will now tell it to the sons of Reuben that Anna is a mother? Learn, learn you twelve tribes of Israel, that Anna is a mother!’ Then she left the child in the holy place reserved for her, and went out to serve the guests, who rejoiced and praised the God of Israel.1
1: This account is based on the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James. The Church has incorporated these elements into her services and iconography, to provide the themes in the cycle of feasts of the Mother of God. cf. Conception of St Anna (9 Dec.), Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple (21 Nov.), and Annunciation (25 Mar).
The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox ·Church
By HIEROMONK MAKARIos OF SIMONOS PETRA
Translatedfrom the French by Christopher Hookway
Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady