From The Word, September 1999
Few things in life bring greater joy than the birth of a child. Even greater is that joy when the parents have nearly given up all hope of ever having a child. Such was the case of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joachim and Anna. As the church embarks on a new year September 1, the first great feast we encounter in our journey through the liturgical year is the Birth of the Theotokos on September 8.
How appropriate that at the beginning of the new church year we celebrate the beginning of the life of the Virgin Mary, for in both we see the promise of salvation.
The birth of Mary was the fulfillment of the promise of God, foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. This truth is emphasized throughout the liturgical texts of the feast. Mary was “foreordained before the womb as the Mother of God” (Great Vespers). She is the “preordained tabernacle of our reconciliation with God . . .“ (Matins of the Feast).
Mary’s birth is the inauguration of God’s plan for the salvation of man; with her birth we anticipate the birth of her Son and the redemption that His incarnation brings. We celebrate Mary’s birth because she is to give birth to our salvation — Jesus Christ. In the birth of Mary, we celebrate the beginning of the story of our salvation.
So too it is with the beginning of each new church year. Every September, we begin anew that journey through the liturgical year, celebrating all the great events along the way that lead to eternal life. Along the road which wends itself through the coming year we shall experience the birth of Christ, His baptism, His death on the cross, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven.
Along the liturgical road we will celebrate the lives of saints. Every day we will be presented with examples of holy men and women who teach us what it means to follow Christ and the salvation that following brings.
Each Sunday along the way we will hear of Christ’s miracles, His teachings, His acts of mercy. As we travel down the liturgical road, the reality of our redemption is revealed to us. All that God has done for us, all that God has made available to us is revealed along the liturgical road. Each year at this time we are called to begin this journey again. Each year we are granted the opportunity to experience or re-experience the pathway to salvation.
The great and mysterious truth of this journey is that it is not simply a journey of remembrance, but rather a journey of participation. In a mystery, we do not simply remember or commemorate the great events of the liturgical journey; we actually participate in them. We do not simply remember Christ’s birth or death or resurrection — in a mystery we are there experiencing the reality of it and receiving the grace of God that pours forth from it. The purpose of our journey is not simply to remember God’s grace and goodness, but to experience it firsthand. Our destination is not simply the memory of God, but the experience of God Himself.
Could any journey be more exciting? Could any journey be more beautiful? Could any trip be more rewarding?
How can we “neglect so great a salvation?” How can we be indifferent to so great a gift? Even as we celebrate the birth of Mary, the inauguration of our salvation, let us also embark on this great journey through the liturgical year. For in both are made manifest the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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Nativity of the Mother of God, September 8
Troparion, Tone 4
Thy Nativity, O Mother of God, has brought joy to all the world; for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, Who, having dissolved the curse, has given His blessing, and having abolished death, has granted us life eternal.
Kontakion, Tone 4
Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, O Immaculate One, by thy holy nativity. And thy people, redeemed from the guilt of sin, celebrate thy birth by crying to thee: The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God and the nurse of our life.