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Excerpts From St John Of Damascus: An Oration On The Nativity Of The Holy Theotokos Mary

….Let the whole of creation make festival and sing of the most holy birth-giving of the holy Anna. For she bore for the world an inviolable treasury of blessings. Through her the Creator transformed all nature into a better state by means of humanity. For if a human being stands between mind and matter, since he is the bond between all visible and invisible creation, the creative Word of God, having become unified with the nature of humanity, was unified through it with the whole of creation. Let us then celebrate the dissolution of human sterility since our incapacity for blessings has been dissolved.

But why has the Virgin Mother been born from a sterile woman? For that which alone is new under the sun, the culmination of miracles, the way had to be prepared by means of miracles, and what was greater had to advance slowly from what was more humble. And I have another more exalted and divine reason. Nature has been defeated by grace and stands trembling, no longer ready to take the lead. Therefore when the God-bearing Virgin was about to be born from Anna, nature did not dare to anticipate the offshoot of grace; instead it remained without fruit until grace sprouted its fruit. For it was necessary for her to be the first-born, she who would bear the “Firstborn of all creation” in whom “all things subsist” (Col 1.15,17).

O blessed couple, Joachim and Anna, all nature is indebted to you! For through you it has offered a gift to the Creator which is more excellent than all [other] gifts: a holy mother who alone is worthy of the Creator. O most all-blessed loins of Joachim, from which a wholly unblemished seed was sent forth! O renowned womb of Anna, in which slowly, with additions from her, an all-holy infant grew, and once it had taken shape, was born! O belly that contained within itself a living heaven, vaster than the immensity of [all] the heavens!….

Today he, who once in ancient times established the firmament out of water and raised it up to the heights, has prepared heaven on earth out of earthly nature. And truly, this [heaven] is much more divine and miraculous than that [firmament]. For the One who at that time prepared the sun, arose from this [earthly nature] as a Sun of righteousness (Mal 4.2)….

O, by how many marvels and by what alliances has this little daughter become a workshop! Offspring of sterility, virginity that bears a child, a mixture of both divinity and humanity, of suffering and impassibility, of life and death, as if [for him] the inferior had been vanquished by the greater in all things! And all these things, O Master, are for the sake of my salvation! You so loved me that you brought about this [salvation], not by means of angels, nor by any creature, but, just as in the first creation, you worked with your own hand [my] regeneration. And so I dance and boast and rejoice; I return again to the source of the miracles and, filled with the stream of happiness, I again pluck the harp of the Spirit and sing a divine hymn of the nativity….

Let the celebrated tabernacle which Moses constructed in a desert with all manner of very precious materials, and the [tabernacle] of the patriarch Abraham before that, give way to the living and rational tabernacle of God. For she was the receptacle not just of the activity of God, but essentially of the hypostasis of the Son of God. Let a tabernacle that was entirely covered with gold recognize that it cannot compare with her, along with a golden jar which contained manna, a lampstand, a table, and all the other objects from long ago. For they have been honored as her types, as shadows of a true archetype….

O holy couple, Joachim and Anna, accept from me this birthday oration! O daughter of Joachim and Anna and lady, accept an oration from one who is a sinful servant but who is on fire with love and reverence, and who has clung to you alone as hope of joy, supporter of life, mediator towards your Son, and firm pledge of salvation! May you disperse the burden of my sins and the cloud that overshadows my mind and dissolve my material insensibility! And may you put a stop to my temptations, govern my life in holiness, and lead me by the hand to the blessed state above! May you grant peace to the world and perfect joy and eternal salvation to all the orthodox inhabitants of this city through the prayers of your parents and of the whole body of the Church! Let it be, let it be! “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1.28,42), Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To him be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit to the infinity of the ages of ages. Amen.

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