September 8, 2020

Encomium on the Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos (St. Nicholas Cabasilas) - 1 of 5

Encomium on the Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos

By St. Nicholas Cabasilas

Let us invoke God here first of all, not to achieve an expression of speech worthy of things and appropriate to the subject that concerns us - this is completely beyond human hope - but to be able to bring in some way and as much as possible the speech to an end and not to lag too far behind the many who have spoken about it before us. And even, which is much more important, to benefit somewhat from the zeal and to gain some sanctification from the speech, as if we were performing a sacred ceremony. I wish these things, because I believe that with them she who is praised is honored more than anything else and that above all she wants the benefit of the soul for her praisers. He actually asks for this benefit both through that which benefits us and through that which he demands of us in return for what he gives us. Then those who are really blessed men, who presented with their speech for the common good in this life the common good, I think they did not speak of the Virgin by chance nor did they just praise her according to the rules of Rhetoric, but as much as possible even brighter and with excessive dedication and awareness of the debt owed. Of course, it does not make sense for anyone not to praise the common benefactors at all or to contrast them with a few simple words, those who, even if the whole universe chanted with one voice, could not praise them as much as they should.

If it is still natural for the workers of a project to keep up and fit in perfectly with it, and if the Lord of the project knows well, being wise as he is, those things which must be done and it is not at all difficult, as one who is mighty, in their realization, what a multitude of encomiums is too small before you, O blessed Couple? Because you were found worthy to be used by God for the best and the greatest, the most paradoxical and the most useful work of all ages, that is, I want to say, in that God envelops in human flesh and is born among men taking from you the mother!

2. Because, just as calamities and scandals inevitably occur in our lives, though the Lord said "woe to the one who causes them", similarly, while all who have been helpers of the human race are good and are entitled to enjoy the general honors, of all of them you are the best and most worthy of praise and honors. And you excel so much the generals and the legislators and the priests and the leaders of the people and all those who have in any way fought for their fellow human beings, that their own achievements are inappropriate even compared to the blessings that because of you came to people. For, if in order to preserve this perishable life in man and to save in a few bodies the common human nature staying above the common destruction, the most just (Noah) was chosen among the people at that time; if also for the liberation of the Jews He sent a general that in no way was accidental, and Moses was honored with this honor, because as one of their contemporaries, after training his soul in every virtue, he was able to see God in a special way and hear his voice; and even though the famous Joshua (of Nun) was enough to reclaim the Promise Land, and finally before them Abraham received as a reward of his piety to become the patriarch of a nation that knew how to respect God; that is, if there was no benefactor at all of humanity who had not previously made his soul conform and proportionate to the goods which he caused to come to others, how important it is to consider those servants, whom God used as instruments of his philanthropy or his collaborators as we should better call them, when he wanted to grant to the world this wonderful grace, that is, when the time came to liberate the universe from the tyranny of demons, to bring mortal life to immortality, to plant the angelic life in the souls of men and in general to unite heaven with earth?

Because it is obvious that the anger, rage and sorrow that the wicked had to suffer, God sent them with evil angels, while He gave the good with the good. Thus the greatest of all gifts God made to men through those who were in every way excellent. So from Moses and Noah and Abraham and all those through whom the human race reaped the benefits, you have been far more righteous and faithful to the law and more beloved to God. Because the fact that you were able to accomplish so many great things before God and were honored because of them with such admirable honor is a glorious proof that you are more beloved of God than any other human beings. And this last again clearly proves that you have kept the law of God more than all men and that you have surpassed them all in virtue. And if, on the other hand, we should call your fruit the blessed Virgin - and "everyone shall know them," says the Lord, "by their fruits" - what fruit could ever be considered greater, since the child was not a mere product of nature but was a work of your prayer and virtue? Because of course nature was incapable of producing such a wonderful fruit, which was entirely given by God. It is obvious that God followed your prayers and that again your prayer took its power from your virtue. But the fact that the offspring that make the parents happy are gifts of God, shows that the size of the gifts proves the sanctity of those who received them, just as from the wreath it is in my opinion possible to understand the athlete. Because in no way, of course, can God show partiality, the one who "measures all things with just measures and weights".

3. On the other hand, as grace is the purpose and fulfillment of the law and as we know, the new is always the fruit of the old, and it is never possible to give fruit of something that is not perfect, it is obvious that you have nourished with your life and you have made perfect the plant of the law. Because otherwise you could certainly not bring into the world the fruit of the law, the treasure of grace, the Virgin. But it is still a fact that the one who properly cares for the small benefits is found worthy to receive great benefits from the just God. How, then, is not the glorious proof that you have fully obeyed the law and that you have revered more than anyone else the Tabernacle of Testimony, the fact that you alone were worthy to bring into the world - or, even more, to create - the true Tabernacle of God, in front of which the Tabernacle of Testimony is so small that it is only an image of it and a shadow? Because of course you could not become worthy of the greater one, if you did not give the right value to the lesser one. Nor would it be possible to receive the truth if you were indifferent to its prototype.

And just as the Savior, who was to bring the new law to mankind, had to apply the old law to himself in all its fullness, so did you, who were on the verge of the new law and had been prepared to receive the temple of grace, it was an absolute necessity to become strict observers of the law beforehand. Because grace is the fulfillment of the law. And of course how could you add what was missing, if you yourself did not respond to what was there? How could you put the roof of the law, if you had not previously built the whole house well? The wickedness of the Jews was made manifest by how great it was that they abolished the law and shattered the tablets on which it was written, since it was certainly not tolerable for Moses to trust in the ears of drunks what he claimed to accept with sober thought, fasting and many troubles. On the contrary, the fact that you raised the Virgin, the fact that you created that living book, which contained not just the law, but the legislator himself, is a strong proof of your wonderful virtue. And you fasted and heard, after you prayed, like Moses, the divine voice. But you did not simply achieve what he did, but while he succeeded in receiving with his prayers the law that ceased to be valid after a while, you achieved the blood that established and sealed the New Testament, the blood that God made his own, and "entered" with it "into the interior of the veil, securing eternal redemption", as Paul says.