1. THE NATIVITY OF THE MOST-HOLY THEOTOKOS
The Holy Virgin Mary was born of aged parents, Joachim and Anna. Her father was of the lineage of David, and her mother of the lineage of Aaron. Thus, she was of royal birth by her father, and of priestly birth by her mother. In this, she foreshadowed Him Who would be born of her as King and High Priest. Her parents were quite old and had no children. Because of this they were ashamed before men and humble before God. In their humility they prayed to God with tears, to bring them joy in their old age by giving them a child, as He had once given joy to the aged Abraham and his wife Sarah by giving them Isaac. The Almighty and All-seeing God rewarded them with a joy that surpassed all their expectations and all their most beautiful dreams. For He gave them not just a daughter, but the Mother of God. He illumined them not only with temporal joy, but with eternal joy as well. God gave them just one daughter, and she would later give them just one grandson-but what a daughter and what a Grandson! Mary, Full of grace, Blessed among women, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Altar of the Living God, the Table of the Heavenly Bread, the Ark of God's Holiness, the Tree of the Sweetest Fruit, the Glory of the race of man, the Praise of womanhood, the Fount of virginity and purity-this was the daughter given by God to Joachim and Anna. She was born in Nazareth, and at the age of three, was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem. In her young womanhood she returned again to Nazareth, and shortly thereafter heard the Annunciation of the Holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, from her most-pure virgin body.
2. THE FEAST OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS OF KALI TO
In the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos near the village of Kali to, west of Struga in Macedonia, the Holy Mother of God manifested her power and mercy through numerous miracles. Many of the sick were miraculously healed, and thieves who thought to plunder or desecrate the monastery were severely punished by an invisible power. There is a miracle-working icon of the Holy Theotokos in the church there; nearby, there are two springs of healing water: that of St. Peter and that of St. Ananias. The Chapel of St. Athanasius is located in a cave not far from the main church.
3. THE FEAST OF THE ICON OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS OF POCHAEV
In the province of Volhynia there is a famous Monastery of the Holy Theotokos, in Pochaev. The Holy Mother of God first appeared in about 1340 to one of two monks who were laboring in asceticism in a cave there. From that time on, the place has been an inexhaustible font of numerous miracles.
HYMN OF PRAISE THE NATIVITY OF THE MOST-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
O greatly desired and long awaited one, O Virgin, thou hast been obtained from the Lord with tears! A bodily temple of the Most-holy Spirit shalt thou become, And shalt be called Mother of the Eternal Word. The Burning Bush they called thee, For thou wilt receive within thyself the divine fire: Ablaze with fire but not consumed, Thou shalt bear the Golden Fruit and offer it to the world. Thou shalt be the Bearer of Him Who bears the heavens, To Whom all of heaven offers up praise! The Miracle of miracles shall come to pass within thee, For thou shalt bear heaven, thou who art ``more spacious than the heavens!'' Thou art more precious to us, O Virgin, than precious stones, For thou art the source of salvation for mankind. For this, may the entire universe glorify thee, O Most-holy Virgin, O white Turtledove! The King of Heaven shall desire to enter the world, And shall pass through thee, O Beautiful Gate! O Virgin, when thou dost become woman thou shalt bear Christ for us; From thy body, the Sun shall blaze forth.
St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes of the immeasurable joy, the outer and inner radiance, and the indescribable fragrance that he sensed in the presence of the Holy Theotokos when he visited her in Jerusalem. In his zeal, he says that if he had not known the One True God, he would have recognized her, the Holy Virgin Mary, as God. The Holy Virgin made such a powerful and unique impression on men during her earthly life-and she received an incomparably greater power and glory after her physical death when, by the will of God, she was exalted above the heavenly hosts. Her power comes from her ceaseless prayer for the faithful, for all those who turn to her for help. When St. John of Novgorod and his people prayed to her for help against a hostile army, he understood that she was simultaneously praying to the Lord with tears in their behalf, and Novgorod was miraculously saved. As she was compassionate toward her crucified Son, so the Holy Most-pure One is also compassionate toward all those in need, and who turn to her for help. It could be said that the entire earth is covered by the miracles of her mercy. Even today, there lives in Belgrade a café owner (C. J.), who was born in the village of Labuni te (Macedonia) outside Struga. His mother brought him blind to the Monastery of Kali to, where, after the priest prayed over him before the icon of the Holy Theotokos, he received his sight. The first monk at Pochaev saw a fiery pillar extending from earth to heaven, and in that flaming pillar he saw the Holy Theotokos. She was standing on a rock. On the spot where she stood, a spring of healing water sprang forth: even today, it heals many of the sick.
Contemplate God's wonderful gift to Solomon (I Kings 3): 1. How the Lord appeared to Solomon in Gibeon, and asked him his desire; 2. How Solomon asked for an understanding heart, in order to judge the people and recognize good and evil; 3. How God gave him that which he sought, as well as that which he did not seek.
HOMILY ON THE EQUALITY OF THE SON AND THE FATHER
The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do (John 5:19).
Brethren, how are we to understand these words? In the same way as some heretics understood them-that is, that the Son is lesser and weaker than the Father? In no way. The mouths that interpreted these words of the Lord this way spoke blasphemy. We must understand these words as our Holy Fathers understood them-that the Son is equal to the Father in all things; and that, because of their equality of will, love, and wisdom, the Son can do nothing contrary to the Father's will, or contrary to the love of the Father, or contrary to the wisdom of the Father. Thus, the Father cannot do anything contrary to the Son, and the Holy Spirit cannot do anything contrary to the Father or the Son. Everything that the Father wills and loves and thinks, is also willed, loved and thought by the Son and the Holy Spirit. Harmony unequaled; unity undivided; being inexpressible! Therefore, it is obvious that the Son can and will do nothing of Himself-nothing of His own accord, nothing without harmony and unity with the power of the Father and the will of the Father. The Lord Himself further witnesses that this interpretation is true by His words: For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will (John 5:21). Do you see the equality of will and power? That which the Father wills, the Son wills also; that which the Father can do, the Son can also do. Therefore, let no one separate Their Divinity, and thus bring down a curse upon himself. God cannot be divided, and one who tries to divide Divinity-and to lessen one Person and to exalt the other Person-cannot be saved. O Most-holy Trinity our God, Three in Persons, and One in Essence- Life, Light and Love-look down upon us, and have mercy on us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.