On Friday, September 21st, we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At the beginning of the new era of grace, the Lord was pleased to create a temple not made by hands: the Most Pure, Most Blessed Virgin Mary. By what builder was this temple erected? In truth, by One most wise; by the very Wisdom of God, as the Scripture says, “Wisdom hath built itself a temple.” All things created by the Wisdom of God are good and perfect, therefore, as it was the Wisdom of God that created the living temple of the Word (as she said of herself through the words of the Holy Spirit, “The Lord established me in the beginning of His way”) it was not possible that in her there could be any sort of imperfection or sin. The Perfect God created a perfect temple; the Most Radiant King, a most radiant palace; for the Most Pure and Undefiled Bridegroom, a bridal chamber most pure and undefiled; for the Spotless Lamb, an unsullied dwelling place. A Faithful Witness abiding in the heavens said to her, “You are most fair, my love; there is no spot in you.” And the Holy Damascene says, “She is is wholly the bridal chamber of the Spirit, wholly the city of God, a sea of Grace, wholly good, close to God.”

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With what materials was this palace built? In truth, with the most costly, for she, being like precious stone, was of royal lineage, descended from David, who placed a stone in his sling, and with it killed Goliath. The stone foreshadowed the Stone that is Christ, fashioned, as it were, from aromatic woods, of cedar and cypress. The Virgin Theotokos was born of priestly ancestors as well, who offered God sweet smelling sacrifices. Her father, the Holy Righteous Joachim, was the son of Barpather, who traced his ancestry to Nathan, the son of David. Her mother, the Holy Righteous Anna, was the daughter of Matthan the priest, who was of the line of Aaron. Thus, the Most Pure Virgin was by her father of royal descent, and by her mother, of high priestly lineage. Of what precious materials, from what an ancestry was the most illustrious, animate palace of the King of Glory fashioned!

She is is wholly the bridal chamber of the Spirit, wholly the city of God, a sea of Grace, wholly good, close to God

As structures built of stone and wood in Solomon’s palace were esteemed all the more for the pure gold with which they were covered, so in the case of the Nativity of the Most Pure Theotokos, the nobility of her royal and highpriestly lineage is rendered yet more honorable by the chastity of her holy parents, which is more to be valued “than thousands of gold and silver. She is more precious than costly stones, and nothing that is dear is to be compared to her,” for the Most Pure Virgin was born of parents possessed of chastity, which is loftier than all nobility, was, as the Holy Damascene testifies, writing of the Righteous Ancestors of God thus, “O blessed couple Joachim and Anna! Truly, by the fruit of your loins are you known to be blameless, according to the words of the Lord, ‘You shall know them by their fruits. ‘You ordered your lives in a manner pleasing to God, and worthy of her who was born of you. Having lived in chastity and righteousness, you brought forth the treasury of virginity, the Virgin, who was a virgin before giving birth, as she gave birth, and even after she gave birth. She alone, being in mind and soul, and body ever a virgin, abides always in virginity. It was fitting that this virginity, be born of chastity. Like a pair of doves, Joachim and Anna! You, having chastely observed the laws of nature, have been granted by God that which is above nature, and have brought into the world the Virgin Mother of God. While in the flesh, you have piously and virtuously borne a daughter who is higher than the angels and reigns over them.

Most fair and sweet Daughter! Lily, sprung up in the midst of tares from a root most noble and august! By you the royal priesthood has been enriched!” With words such as these does the Holy Damascene clearly indicate the manner of parents who bore the Mother of God, and of what costly materials the palace of the Heavenly King was erected. Amen.

Fr Iraneaus