September 9, 2015

The Immense Joy of the Birth of the Theotokos (Elder George Kapsanis)

By Archimandrite Fr. George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery, Mount Athos

(Homily Delivered in 1986)

The Most Holy Theotokos is she who participated like no other person in the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, who gave birth to Christ in virginity, and gave herself entirely to Christ. She also became the first citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and the first to be divinized after Christ, the first divinized human being, a god after God, according to Saint Gregory Palamas, having a second place to the Holy Trinity, and is at the head of the saved, according to the phrase of an Orthodox theologian.

The Lady Theotokos is therefore at the head of the Church and of all the gatherings and celebrations and feasts of the Church, and in its prayers she has the first seat after Christ, her Only-Begotten Son. The Ever-Virgin fulfills her own prophecy in her person, which she said in the Holy Spirit: "Behold, all generations shall call me blessed," as well as the prophecy of that woman who said: "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that nursed You."

This authentic joy of the world and the Church we also share in today with the holy Nativity of the Lady Theotokos. And always as her children - unworthy though we be, yet by her grace - we today celebrate, and are grateful to her, thankful to her, and glorify her, surrounding her with joy and gladness and shouts, and we supplicate her to not distance her maternal protection and covering from each of us, from the Church, from the Holy Mountain, and from all Christians, but to continue in her vigilant intercessions before God for our salvation.

There rings in our ears in particular the words of our God-bearing Holy Father Gregory Palamas, who was among those great Fathers of the Church who theologized on the holy Theotokos and experienced the mystery of mysteries of the Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin. The words of this God-bearing Father, which are exhortations to married Christians, but mainly directed to the bearers of virginity, ring particularly in the ears of our souls of we who have left the world for the sake of Christ and desire to live the mystery of the virginity of the Theotokos and the Saints.

We hear Saint Gregory tell us, what a great mission virgins bear, to not only have their bodies pure but also their soul from every thought which corrupts their purity, so as to be a vessel of purity for the Most-Holy Spirit and their virginity is a virginity of worship and love towards God. A virgin is also one who burns with divine eros and does not know any other way to express their eros for Christ except through sacred virginity, with complete purity of soul and body.

May the Lord Jesus, who was virginally born of the Virgin, the Son and Word of God, Who was virginally born of the Father, according to Saint Gregory, Who was virginally born pre-eternally, through the intercessions of the Lady Theotokos, help us to walk on the path of virginity rejoicing "with fear and trembling working out our salvation," and that  we may aspire to the Virgin Theotokos and the perfection of virginity, which she experienced, so that the measure of our own virginity will always be the virginity of our Panagia.

In this way, I think, will we who are bearers of virginity here on the Holy Mountain, which is her Garden, will we please the Lady Theotokos, by being in her image and imitating the virginity of the Most Holy Theotokos. And with joy she will honor us, with joy will she oversee the brotherhood of the Holy Mountain, and with joy will she lead each of us in the love of her Only-Begotten Son, and will help us to have a good end to the struggles of this life and to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.