The story of the feast
The feast of the Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady is one of twelve main Christian feasts, which was set up in honor of the birth of the Most Holy Lady – the Mother of Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament it is written very poor about the earthly life of the Holy Lady and there are no facts about her Birth and Her parents. About this event, in honor of which the feast was set up, we found out from the apocryphal Gospel of James (the second century). According to the apocryphal story, which became the part of the Holy Story, the religious couple from the Jerusalem - Joachim and Anna does not have children even in the old age.
But once, at the very great feast Joachim went in the temple to make a sacrifice. The priest found out that Joachim was childless and he did not allow Joachim to make a sacrifice. The Jews, who were present, started to laugh at him and offend. That all made him so sad that he did not want to go home, so he went in the desert, where his herds grazed. In his prayers he promised God that he would not eat, drink and come home till the time God would hear his prayers.
Anna, his wife, was at home all this time. When she found out what happened, she tried to pray to God more and she gave the promise that she would give her child for serving to Lord, if He heard her prayers. Her walked through the garden and cried, but suddenly she saw a sparrow's nest in the laurel. And Anna shouted: “Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses You, O Lord..” And then the Angel of God appeared in the garden: “Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”. The same vision came to Joachim. He hurried home, promising to sacrifice ten sheep, twelve bulls and 100 goats. After these good news Joachim and Anna met near the golden gates of the Jerusalem:
And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house. (The Protoevangelium of James 4:7-8).
After that Anna conceived. As Gospel says “And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth”. The Birth of Marry brought the happiness not only to her parents but to all people, because her mission was to become the Mother of the God’s Son, the Savior of the world. Parents protected their Holy Daughter very carefully, they loved her and honored, because they remembered what Angel said about her. When she was three years old, they brought Marry to the temple according to the promise they gave to God.
Soon after that Joachim died, he was 80 years old. So his widow left Nazareth and moved to Jerusalem, where she lived near her daughter in the temple praying till her death. She died two years after her husband in the old age.
The traditions of the feast
As other holidays in the honour of Our Most Holy Lady, this holiday was introduced relatively late. The official introduction of this holiday in the Eastern Empire is ascribed to the Emperor Mauritius. The first reference to the feast of Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady dated the 5th century on the East, in the words of St. Proclus, archbishop of Constantinople (439-446) and on the West in the words of the Pope Gelasius (492-496). The feast appeared firstly in the Greek church and then in Roman church, and lately it spread through their filial churches. It was mentioned by St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine the Blessed.
Despite its mentioning in the Latin sources of VII century, the holiday was not spread in the west and had no festive service up to XII - XIII century. Only on the Lyon Council (1245) Pope Innocent IV made this holiday an obligatory for all the western Churches, and Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378) set special fast and liturgy for a holiday.
Among the people a lot of traditions are connected with this feast. It is a day, when according to all the signs the crop must be gathered. And when all the field works were completed in time, then began the feast, was dedicated to collection of the harvest. Feast is called - Feast of Harvest. The greater the crop is, the longer the feast lasts. Celebration lasted from three days to two weeks. In these days it was accepted to visit each other, treat with food that was prepared from that harvest. And as hospitable there will be a table, so much better will be the harvest the next year. In such a way they tried to gain favor of nature, so that the next year it is not worse, than this one.
Among people such an expression is spread: a believer prays - Most Holy Lady smiles. On a such day it was accepted to pray to the Our Most Holy Lady about everything that disturbed your soul. Especially this day is respected by the childless parents, asking the Divine Mother to protect and blessing from God for the future of the family. It was considered that no prayer which is said on this day would remain regardless. Although, it should be noted that no matter what day you ask Her on- she will always help, if a person needs the help.
The Divine nature of the feast
The most Holy Virgin Mary was born when people reached such limits of moral decline, at which their spiritual revival seemed already impossible. The best minds of that epoch realized and often openly said that God must come in the world, to correct a faith and prevent against destruction of the humanity.
Archangel Gabriel brought to Joachim and Anna good news: their prayers are heard by God, and blessed Daughter Mary, through whom there will be received the rescue to the whole world, will be born. The most Holy Mary by her cleanness and virtue became a Divine living temple. Birth of Most Holy Lady is celebrated by Church, as a day of global gladness. On this festive day, at the border of the Old and the New Testaments, the Blessed Virgin Mary is born, who served to the secret of embodiment of our God – Jesus Christ.
Nativity of Most Holy Lady marked the time, when large and reassuring promises about the rescue of the humanity from the slavery of devil began to be accomplished. This event approached the Earth to the Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of truth, piety, virtue and immortal life.
The peculiarities of its celebration in the Orthodox Church
The Nativity of Our Holy Lady is the feast, celebrated in the Orthodox Church on September 21. It should be mentioned that the new Church year starts exactly on this day.
The story of the New Testament starts from the moment of birth of a girl in the family of Joachim and Anna. It was the God’s gift to people; Savior Jesus came through her in this world. This feast has the same importance as all others feasts of Our Lady as God shows His endless love to these fallen people, lost in the darkness of sinfulness, through the birth of this great spiritual person.
We can ask:
- Why did God’s Word wait so many centuries, looking at the sufferings of people?
- Because there was no girl on the Earth, who could become worthy to give the birth to Living God.
God’s task and all human hopes are directed to this day – the start of the new page in the history of saving of people.
On this day we pray to the Most Holy Lady with gratitude and pleadings to help us to inherit happiness of presence of God in our life, making efforts, having Her life as an example, to have the right to be called God’s children, who will enter the God’s Kingdom.