This week we Orthodox celebrate one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, The Birth of Christ’s mother Mary, whom we Orthodox call the Theotokos. This name, which means God-bearer, honors Jesus Christ in that it contains the statement of our belief that He is “…very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
In this article about the feast Fr. Alexander Schmemann tells us that Mary’s birth was not unlike that of any other human, with all its gifts and potential. Putting it that way, though, belies the immensity of what happens when someone is born, if you believe Fr. Alexander who says that “…with each birth the world is itself in some sense created anew and given as a gift to this new human being to be his life, his path, his creation.” This is hard for me to wrap my head around; probably because it’s something that the heart has to learn.
Mary was given this gift – and she gave the world a great gift. Certainly she played a big role in our salvation history, and we love her for it, and love to celebrate her birthday.
These excerpts are from a slightly longer article here: On The Nativity of The Theotokos
THE BIRTH OF THE THEOTOKOS:
Son of God, Son of Man… God descending and becoming man so that man could become divine, could become partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), or as the teachers of the Church expressed it, “deified.” Precisely here, in this extraordinary revelation of man’s authentic nature and calling, is the source of that gratitude and tenderness which cherishes Mary as our link to Christ and, in Him, to God.
And nowhere is this reflected more clearly than in the Nativity of the Mother of God. Nothing about this event is mentioned anywhere in the Holy Scriptures. But why should there be? Is there anything remarkable, anything especially unique about the normal birth of a child, a birth like any other?
The Church began to commemorate the event with a special feast…because, on the contrary, the very fact that it is routine discloses something fresh and radiant about everything we call routine and ordinary, it gives new depth to the unremarkable details of human life…. with each birth the world is itself in some sense created anew and given as a gift to this new human being to be his life, his path, his creation.
This feast therefore is first a general celebration of Man’s birth, and we no longer remember the anguish, as the Gospel says, “for joy that a human being is born into the world” (Jn. 16:21). Secondly, we now know whose particular birth, whose coming we celebrate: Mary’s. We know the uniqueness, the beauty, the grace of precisely this child, her destiny, her meaning for us and for the whole world. And thirdly, we celebrate all who prepared the way for Mary, who contributed to her inheritance of grace and beauty….
And therefore the Feast of her Nativity is also a celebration of human history, a celebration of faith in man, a celebration of man. Sadly, the inheritance of evil is far more visible and better known. There is so much evil around us that this faith in man, in his freedom, in the possibility of handing down a radiant inheritance of goodness has almost evaporated and been replaced by cynicism and suspicion.
This hostile cynicism and discouraging suspicion are precisely what seduce us to distance ourselves from the Church when it celebrates with such joy and faith this birth of a little girl in whom are concentrated all the goodness, spiritual beauty, harmony and perfection that are elements of genuine human nature. Thus, in celebrating Mary’s birth we find ourselves already on the road to Bethlehem, moving toward the joyful mystery of Mary as the Mother to God.
—Fr. Alexander Schmemann