September 8, 2020

The Nativity of the Theotokos as a Feast of Universal Joy (Elder George Kapsanis)

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

(Homily Delivered in 1988)

Our Church celebrates the Feast of Universal Joy, the Nativity of our Lady the Theotokos. And somewhere, in one of the beautiful troparia of the feast, she is called the "the root of our nation" (second canon of the feast, 9th ode). And indeed, our Panagia is the new root, which in a barren world, in a sterile world, in a spiritually dead world, was able to bring us the flower of life, the Savior Christ. Without this new root humanity could not have the sweetest fruit, the Savior Christ. And that is why her Birth, as the beginning of the regeneration of the human race, is a matter of universal joy.

We must not forget that, in order for this universal joy to exist, two simple and humble souls contributed - Saint Joachim and Saint Anna. They secretly worshiped God in their hearts. They left their pain for their childlessness with trust and prayer before God. And from that worship of God, that trust in God, the assignment of their life to God, the purity of their heart, their simplicity and their humility, the great miracle took place. From the former infertile parents came the solution of human infertility. "Where God wills, nature is defeated." Neither the philosophers nor the politicians nor the other famous leaders of mankind solved the infertility of human nature. It was solved by two simple and humble souls, Joachim and Anna.

And one wonders what great things can happen to ordinary and humble people. People do not appreciate them because they do not have the criteria to appreciate such spiritual achievements. They often ignore them or even despise them. But when souls are given to God, when they are sanctified and purified and pray and live for God, then God can bring out of these simple and humble souls something very great for the whole world, as happened with Saint Joachim and Saint Anna. Saint Joachim and Saint Anna did not know what the fruits of their humility, their holy marriage, their modest marriage, their obedience to God, their desire and their faith in God would be. But from these cases God brings great works, as I said, for the whole world.

Today we bless Saint Joachim and Saint Anna and we are grateful to them, because their humble marriage - their marriage in prayer and in purity and in sanctification - caused the birth of the flower of virginity to the world, our Panagia, the Mother of the Redeemer.

We also secretly, heartily, prayerfully, worshipfully participate in this universal joy. We venerate, as the words of our Church say, the swaddling clothes which were used at the birth of our Lady the Theotokos. We thank her because she was given to God from the womb. And throughout her infancy and childhood she offered herself entirely to God. And so, continuing the holiness of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, her God-inspired and God-proclaiming parents, she also became the "God-bearing fruit" of virginity, the Mother of the Redeemer.

We ask her on her holy Nativity, as she solved the infertility of the human race, to help us overcome the infertility of sin. Because indeed the human race was childless. They had many natural children, but the only child humans had to give birth to they could not. They could not give birth to God. And so, even if the world had many children, it was spiritually childless.

The Panagia solved the infertility of the human race and gave birth to the Son of God. Just as she gave birth to the Son of God, so may her own intercessions and blessing find us worthy who follow in her footsteps and in the footsteps of her only begotten Son, to overcome the iniquity of sin, the barrenness of human nature without the Holy Spirit. And to make our nature, fertilized by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, capable of giving birth to the holy virtues and to be fertile and fruitful and spiritual. And so to use our human nature, as God created it. Because God did not create man to be dead and barren and infertile, but created him to be alive and fertile and creative. To create holiness and to give birth to Christ Himself. Let every man be a Christ-bearer, as our Lady the Theotokos was the first Christ-bearer to appear on earth.

With her intercessions, therefore, and our own struggle, let us follow in her footsteps and let us have the hope that, if we fight like this, we will not remain sterile and barren.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.