Saint John Maximovitch and the Nativity of the Theotokos

The following is from The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God by Archbishop (now Saint) John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, a Russian Saint who lived in America for a time and reposed in 1966. His miracle-working relics are in San Francisco. This book is a little treasure regarding the Panagia. I share the following since tomorrow, which is Saturday, September 8, we celebrate the Nativity- the birth- of the Most-holy Theotokos.

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The Orthodox Church teaches about the Mother of God that which Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture have informed concerning Her, and daily it glorifies Her in its temples, asking Her help and defense. Knowing that She is pleased only by those praises which correspond to Her actual glory, the Holy Fathers and hymn-writers have entreated Her and Her Son to teach them how to hymn Her. “Set a rampart about my mind, O my Christ, for I make bold to sing the praise of Thy pure Mother” (Ikos of the Dormition). “The Church teaches that Christ was truly born of Mary Ever-Virgin” (St. Epiphanius, “True Word Concerning the Faith”). “It is essential for us to confess that the holy Ever-Virgin Mary is actually Theotokos (Birth-giver of God), so as not to fall into blasphemy. For those who deny that the Holy Virgin is actually Theotokos are no longer believers, but disciples of the Pharisees and Saducees” (St. Ephraim the Syrian, “To John the Monk”).

From Tradition it is known that Mary was the daughter of the aged Joachim and Anna, and that Joachim descended from the royal line of David, and Anna from the priestly line. Notwithstanding such a noble origin, they were poor. However, it was not this that saddened these righteous ones, but rather the fact that they did not have children and could not hope that their descendants would see the Messiah. And behold, when once, being disdained by the Hebrews for their barrenness, they both in grief of soul were offering up prayers to God – Joachim on a mountain to which he had retired after the priest did not want to offer his sacrifice in the Temple, and Anna in her own garden weeping over her barrenness – there appeared to them an angel who informed them that they would bring forth a daughter. Overjoyed, they promised to consecrate their child to God.

In nine months a daughter was born to them, called Mary, Who from Her early childhood manifested the best qualities of soul. When She was three years old, her parents, fulfilling their promise, solemnly led the little Mary to the Temple of Jerusalem; She Herself ascended the high steps and, by revelation from God, She was led in to the very Holy of Holies, by the High Priest who met Her, taking with Her the grace of God which rested upon Her into the Temple which until then had been without grace (See the Kontakion of the Entry into the Temple. This was the newly-built Temple into which the glory of God had not descended as it had upon the Ark or upon the Temple of Solomon.) She was settled into the quarters for virgins which existed in the Temple, but She spent so much time in prayer in the Holy of Holies that one might say that She lived in it. (Service to the Entry, second sticheron on “Lord, I have cried,” and the “Glory, Both Now…”) Being adorned with all virtues, She manifested an example of extraordinarily pure life. Being submissive and obedient to all, She offended no one, said no crude word to anyone, was friendly to all, and did not allow any unclean thought (abridged from St. Ambrose of Milan, “Concerning the Ever-Virginity of the Virgin Mary”).