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September 10, 2020

Encomium on the Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos (St. Nicholas Cabasilas) - 3 of 5

...continued from part two.

6. But the all-immaculate Virgin, without having heaven as her city, without being born of the heavenly bodies, but of the earth - from this fallen race, that forgot its own nature - and according to the same manner as all, she alone, from all people of all times, resisted from the beginning to the end all evil. In this way she attributed to God the undefiled beauty that she gave to our nature and alone used all the weapons and all the power that she put inside us. With her love for God, with the robustness of her thought, the straightforwardness of her will and her majestic wisdom, she drove away all sin and set up a trophy of victory such that it cannot be compared to anything. With all this she revealed man as he was truly created, and she also revealed God, his ineffable wisdom and his infinite philanthropy. So the one she presented then, after circumscribing him with a human body, noticeable in the eyes of everyone, she captured him and portrayed him previously with her works in herself. And it was possible from all created things through her alone "to truly know the Creator". Neither the law proved capable of revealing the divine goodness and wisdom, nor the tongues ​​of the prophets, nor the art of the Creator that reveals the visible creation, nor the sky narrated by the psalmist as the "glory of God", nor even the care and provision of the Angels for the human race, nor, finally, any other of the creations. For only man, who carries within himself the image of God, when he is truly revealed as he is, without having anything wrong with him, could truly reveal God himself. But among the people who have been or will be the one who realized all this and brilliantly preserved human nature unadulterated by everything foreign is the Blessed Virgin. Because none of the others was "clean of dirt", as the prophet says. And this is exactly what is beyond all miracles and surprises not only humans but also Angels and transcends all rhetorical exaggeration: how, while the Virgin was only human and had nothing more than other humans, she was able to escape, her alone, the common disease.

7. How did she do it? What thoughts did she use? What's more, how did this desire first come to her and she wanted to throw herself into this fight, which none of her fellow human beings had ever heard of winning? What guides did she have before her? Who gave her hope that she would win? Where did she get the required courage? Because human nature was fallen, and the wickedness in which most people lived is indescribable. Few were the good ones and they also needed those who would support them. They were so far removed from being useful to others.

So what was it that gave victory to the Virgin, since she did not come to life prior to all people, so that she would have received a nature pure from all evil, nor after the new Man and the new inclination and power that people received from Him; for it would not be at all paradoxical for Adam to conquer sin, since there was nothing that would not push him to virtue and turn him away from evil. He did indeed have a place to live full of all kinds of indulgence, a life free from toil, a body that had not experienced decay, a soul still tasteless of all sin. He did not have a man as his ancestor, but, directly, God himself. He knew Him both as a father of nature and as a teacher and legislator and was created to be with Him in every kind of society and relationship. It was natural, then, for him in all this to contain the love of God. If again those who were born after grace and reconciliation with God, after Christ, the new Sacrifice, and the outpouring of the Spirit and the mystical birth of Baptism and the awesome table of the Divine Eucharist, abstained from all evil accepted so many and so wonderful aids of course nothing remarkable would present. But let us come to the case of the Virgin. For it is so hard and difficult to resist sin to the end, that the first man who existed on earth was also the first to start the lawlessness and despite the many weapons he had to fight for good and virtue he could not withstand the attack and he immediately fell into sin, and those, on the other hand, who came after the bath of Baptism and grace - and I mean the most virtuous of all, those who devoted themselves to finding the highest good and became masters of themselves - there are evils for which they are not completely irresponsible and therefore need the constant purification of the Mysteries, what language can be sung properly and what mind to get an idea of ​​how pure from all evil the Virgin kept her soul, how pure a human being - as if she were only gratitude - she was, since what none of those people who were prepared in every way could achieve, she did it completely, without even needing help from anyone? And this, although she did not come to life either prior to the common disease of nature or after the common physician, but in the midnight of evil and found herself in the place of condemnation, in a nature that always learned to be defeated, in a body that works in death, at a time when all those who could help in the realization of evil were too close, while all those who knew how to fight were absent. Because either we see the fact that before the common reconciliation, before the creator of peace came to earth, she herself dissolved in herself the enmity that existed in human nature against God and opened the heavens and attracted grace and received power to fight against sin, this miracle certainly surpasses any human understanding - why how wonderful must be the contribution of the Virgin, since she was able to prove equal to that of the great Sacrifice? Or do we consider again the fact that, although human nature was hostile, so much the Virgin's intention could be realized, and while the barrier of enmity still existed, it was connected with God and that the wall that separated the whole universe from God could not stand the willingness of a soul, what is more unprecedented than that? For, of course, God did not deliberately create the Virgin in such a way as to necessarily live with this pure way of life, nor, while she herself offered what the others did, did God honor her with greater aids than the others. But the Virgin overcame this unprecedented and wonderful victory using only herself and the weapons that God gave to all people for the struggle of virtue.

8. For to think that God creates people in a state of moral virtue as well as other creations, is a thing which is opposed first of all to the very nature of virtue, which is an optional good and work of our personal will. For precisely in those who "being" lies in the fact that they are rational and free-will beings, "well-being" can only exist in the good use of their rationality and autonomous will. Of course, it is not possible for the "good" to destroy the "being", nor could progress in virtue ever diminish the good we have by nature, since its purpose is to increase it. Because it would certainly be inappropriate to increase the virtue to reduce freedom, that is, to destroy with good works ourselves, what we are by nature. But the adoption of these thoughts is the beginning of a thousand and two blunders. Why is it necessary to admit then one of the two: either that no one is responsible for any of his sins and that, accordingly, the good do not justly win rewards - since they do not lead themselves nor are they the masters of their own will - or, if we do not admit this, we must certainly believe that God is unjust, since, by separating people, he crowns others and condemns others to the eschaton of punishments, without acting logically in either. And it would be extremely vicious if, while he has the ability to make all people great and his hand can distribute goods in the same way to all, he did not.

How could it still be true that God does not "take on the form of man" and that he "wants all to be saved" and that it is for people that the good is offered to society and to share much more than anything else - in the sun and the light and the rest - the more it is "emptied" and the more it is a rich good? But this is not just a conclusion and a reasoning. Because it is quite obvious that God honored all people with the greatest of those gifts that help man to live real life. But if everyone was honored with the greatest, it is obvious that they all received the same. For a greater good, that is, a good that leads in the best way to virtue from the life and conduct in the flesh of the Savior, from death, resurrection and everything else that comes from them - and that the whole universe can enjoy equally - of course it is impossible to create and to consider that it is possible to do such a thing, something which is most absurd. Therefore the help with which He helped His mother is no greater than that which He generally bestowed on all people.