St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
1. Today Mary Is Born! - Archimandrite Iakinf (Unchulyak)

There are secret joys which are impossible to express, remaining hidden in the human heart, living by themselves, and dying together with the person. There are joys which are silent and joys which speak. There are familial joys which do not go beyond the threshold of the home for very long, and maybe never. Sometimes there are inconceivable joys which cannot fit inside the human heart, and you want to tell others about them that other hearts would immediately feel their blessing.

Such joy, for which everything groaned for thousands of years, is poured out today over the whole Earth with the Nativity of the Mother of God. At first small and inconspicuous, the joy of the birth of the Virgin Mary does not go out beyond the threshold of her elderly and divine parents Joachim and Anna. But this joy soon leaked out into the streets of little Nazareth, passed Galilee, encompassed Jerusalem, and filled the entire earth, from one corner to another. For centuries our ancestors have borne her in their hearts, honored her with such faith and reverence, adorned with bountiful prayers and laudatory hymns to the Mother of God.

The joy of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary knocks on our doors today, touches our hearts and calls us to gather in the holy churches, so as to spiritually rejoice together, to pray, to sing and to ask the aid of our Lady the Theotokos, honoring her nativity with everything we have that is purest, best, and beloved.

Thus our parents have raised us and taught us; thus our great grandfathers have accustomed us; thus all the saints of our Church have commanded us. There is no saint who would not offer at least a word of praise for the Mother of God, from whom salvation has come to the whole world. The angels hymned her from Heaven and people from Earth. She was prophesied by the prophets. The Son of God spoke of her. The holy apostles glorified her.

Her name is often remembered by the martyrs in chains, monastics in deserts, mothers at their children’s bedside, virgins in fervent prayer, elders at the hour of their repose, the sick in the furnace of suffering, orphans in the time of trials, widows in their poverty, the poor in their depravity, travelers in danger, and small babies.

The Mother of God is honored equally by the powers from above and by Christians from below; the angelic orders and the human race; the Seraphim from Heaven and monks on Earth; the Heavenly thrones and earthly dominions; the Cherubim and Archangels, Angels and saints, and Christians everywhere with every breath. It befits us to praise the Theotokos, descending in our minds to tiny Nazareth, to where the joy of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary first shown in the world.

Come ye who love the feast, and see what wonder is now accomplished in the home of Joachim. Come ye mothers who love their children, and see who is being held in the arms of Anna. Come ye brides, decked in human apparel, and see what bride unwedded Jesus Christ has prepared for Himself. Come ye chosen virgins, and see what chaste virgin is now born on the world.

Come all, Christian brethren, and see of whom Isaiah spoke, whom David proclaimed, whom the Archangel Gabriel praised, whom the Church of God now celebrates. Come, see whom Anna has born in her barren old age, from which old Joachim rejoices, from which sinners in Hell smile, from which the saints in Heaven rejoice, from which Eve groans no more, from which poor Adam has gone silent.

Come, see why all of Christianity rejoices now, why the bells ring so loudly, why the holy churches are adorned now with so many flowers and laudatory hymns.

Come ye saints, praise now she who is chosen from among the saints. Come ye angels, let us honor her who is more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Come ye holy apostles, let us magnify her who preached Christ before you. Come ye Myrrhbearing Women, let us celebrate her who groaned at the Cross of Christ before you. Come ye mothers, let us praise the mother of our Life with one voice. Come ye virgins, to magnify the Virgin with joyous songs. Come ye babes, to meet with lamps the Child Mary.

Come ye desert-dwellers; come ye pilgrims; come ye sick; come ye mortals, to find and praise our protectress and intercessor now.

Come, Christian brothers from all sides, let us arrange a great banquet of joy in the house of David, for now is born the hope of our salvation. Now has appeared in the world the abode of the Son of God. Today draw nears the fulfillment of time; today is raised up the uncut mountain; today is elevated the untrodden portal; today appears the Heavenly temple. Today Mary is born!

Today extends the ladder of reconciliation between man and God; today the bush erupts with fire unquenchable. Today shines forth the dawn of our salvation on Earth; today is consecrated the chosen vessel of God. Today Mary is born!

Today Christianity exults with joy; today the sun breaks forth with light; today the moon does rejoice; today the stars do whisper; today the flowers gather into a bouquet; today all colors combine in harmony; today chanting sounds forth in one voice; for today is born Mary in Nazareth!

Today is lit the Divine lamp; today the rose blossoms in Nazareth; today the lilies in pagan Galilee have sprouted forth; today the treasure of the world is found; today Mary is born!

Today the birds are filled with song; today Christians prayer with one heart; today virgins rejoice in harmony; today those in Heaven rejoice with those on Earth; today babes sing in one voice; for today is born the servant of the Lord Mary!

In the Virgin’s birth we now rejoice. We admire the immaculate lily; today the treasure of Nazareth is acquired by virtues; we purchase the pearl of the world with repentance; the fount of grace we take by humility; the locked door we unlatch with the key of prayer; the chosen flower of mercy we acquire.

We bear the heavenly ark in our hearts with love, the mother of Life we make our mother through maternal life; the living Church, our intercessor, the young Virgin Mary we forever hymn with loud doxology and hymns of praise, to thereby seize the heart of salvation, to receive by her prayers, Paradise and Christ Himself.

Nazareth is reconciled to Zion by the birth of the Mother of God; Galilee with Judea; Greeks with Jews; Heaven with Earth; God with man; poor Jesus with woeful Adam. The holy churches are united by the prayers of the Mother of God; the peoples are reconciled, they come to understanding; tempests are calmed; the seas are tamed, the waters of temptation are turned back, and all hatred and revenge recede. She prays for us when we are born; she softens our trials in life; she closes our eyes with peace; she asks a place of repose for us in Heaven; she prays for us at the Judgment.

Beloved faithful!

Unspeakable and ineffable for the tongue are the gifts and blessings which the Mother of God gives us always if we resort to her with faith throughout our days. Therefore, all who want to be saved, ask for mercy from the Mother of God; do not be idle, pray, do not sleep, hymn the Lord and do not rebuke Him, bless and do not curse, have mercy upon the poor and do not skimp, visit the sick and do not despise, give rest to pilgrims and do not resist, go to the holy churches and do not neglect.

Go to God but abide in the world, and give with love to receive it as a gift. Ever meet one another in prayer, help one another, encourage and console, and in one voice praise in abundant prayers, and wondrous hymns the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who is now born, that the joy of her birth would abundantly descend upon us.

However, none among the sinful and unrepentant dare praise the Theotokos with lips defiled and hearts impure. None among those wallowing in lust dares without tears to kiss the icon of the Pure Virgin who both Heaven and Earth praise. None among women who have killed their babies, not wanting to be mothers, having not forsaken their sin, dare to beseech her who by her birth became the holiest Mother of those living on this Earth. None of those ashamed by childbearing dare to mock, desiring to see the fruit of the holy parents Joachim and Anna—the Most Pure Virgin, chosen from the ages to be the mother of Christ and mother to us all.

None among infants and children, disobedient to their parents, will seek speedy aid from the Virgin and Infant Mary, being a humble servant and in all things obedient. Neither those who blaspheme sacred objects, nor those filled with hatred, nor liars, nor drunkards, nor the unforgiving—none among sinners await help from the Mother of God if they have not forgiven one another and not repented.

But those repenting of their sins, remembering death, desiring by the path of Confession to lay a beginning of a new life—all of you come, venture, proceed: our Savior loves you. Come, repent, forgive one another, confess, rejoice: The Mother of God awaits you, whose birth we now celebrate. Come, cast aside the old, adorn yourself in new clothes: The saints in Heaven await you, the Church awaits, priests wait for you to come to them for help—just come.

Beloved faithful!

Let it be known that every person is born on Earth to fulfill either one or several earthly and Divine roles. Some are born to bear the pains of childbearing, others are born to raise children with difficulty, and others to rejoice in the works of their successors. Some are born to be only children, others to be fathers and mothers to children, and others to be children without parents or parents without children.

Some are born just to listen, others to teach what is useful, and others to do good works. Some are born to make merry, others to suffer more, and others to soothe the sick and the tears of men.

Thus, all men are born to rejoice in bread, freedom, and sunshine. Everyone is born to labor, to suffer, to die; but the most important role that we must fulfill on Earth is to know Him, believe in Him, and glorify God. This role is obligatory and common for all people, in contrast to earthly roles neither obligatory nor common to all.

For conviction, we again bring forth the example of the Mother of God. The Virgin Mary was not born for herself. She was born for others, for the whole world. She was born precisely to bear in her womb, in her heart, and in her holy arms Christ, to humbly become a servant of the Lord and to be for us a living example worthy of emulation. Therefore, the Mother of God, in virtue of her election and holiness of life is the greatest God-bearer, venerated by the angels in Heaven, and all the saints, and people here on Earth.

The glorious Seraphim and fearsome Cherubim glorify her. The saints in Heaven and people on Earth praise her. All of creation honors her. Adam ceaselessly inquires of her. Eve seeks for her. Mothers groan for her. Widows flee to her mercy. Sinners place their hope in her. The suffering take shelter under her veil. Pilgrims flee to her aid. Mortals invoke her, and we sinners flee to her intercessions and prayers.

But in order to ever rejoice in her aid and intercession, we now rejoice in her birth, and that our joy would be full, we must follow her angelic life; that is, to become God-bearers by knowledge and the preserving of His commandments. After all, that is why God created us.

Every Christian who listens to Christ, who loves the way of the Church, who lives with everyone in love, who renders mercy to the poor and hates nothing but sin is a true Christian—a Christ-bearer. But he who does not love the Church, who hates everyone and does not forgive, who does not confess, and does not unite himself with the Most Pure Mysteries is deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit and left as prey for the devil, and rebels against Christ by his sins.

Thus, if we want to bear Jesus Christ in our hearts, let us follow the example of the Mother of God, whose nativity we now celebrate. Let us bear the fear of God in our hearts. Let us bear in our souls Divine love. Ever bear in mind the thought of death, on our lips the words of holy prayer. Let us have tears of repentance in our eyes and on our face the joy of reconciliation and union with Christ.

By mercy and prayer let us make our home a church, and not an infernal cave by drunkenness and lust. Let us make our arms a cradle for a child, and not an instrument of sin. Let us make our children into children of the Church and society, and not agents of destruction.

If we thus live, we will become true God-bearers, and the Mother of God will be the most fervent intercessor for us, who by her prayers pours out the joy of Nazareth and prosperity in life upon us, and the bliss of Paradise will also be with us.