Feast of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
TODAY STERILE gates are opened and a virginal, divine gate comes forth, from which and through which God (cf. Ez. 44.1-3), who is beyond all existing things, will enter ‘into the world’ (Heb. 1.6) ‘bodily’ (Col. 2.9), according to Paul who heard ineffable things (cf. 2 Cor. 12.4). Today a rod was begotten from the root of Jesse (cf. Is. 11.1), out of which a divine flower will arise for the world. 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 [i.e., the Mother of God] 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). There are two natures, despite the ravings of the Akephaloi [‘headless ones’, referring to followers of Peter Mongos, patriarch of Alexandria, 477-490, i.e. Monosphysites]! There is one hypostasis, despite the curses of the Nestorians! For the eternal light, which came into existence out of eternal light before the ages, the immaterial and bodiless One, takes a body from this woman and comes forth from the bridal chamber as Bridegroom although He is God; and later, having become earthborn, He will rejoice as a giant to run the course of our nature (cf. Ps. 18.6), to journey through sufferings towards death, to bind the strong man and seize from him his goods (cf. Mt. 12.29), that is, our nature, and to lead the wandering sheep back up to the heavenly land (cf. Mt. 18.12).
Today the ‘Son of the carpenter’ (Mt. 13.55), the universally active Word of Him who fashioned all things through Him, the strong arm of God the Highest, with the Spirit of His own finger, after sharpening the blunted axe of our nature, has prepared for Himself a living ladder whose base has been set on earth and whose top reaches to heaven itself. God has come to rest in her; the type that Jacob saw was of her (cf. Gn. 28.12); God descended without change through her, or in other words, having accommodated Himself, He was seen on earth and lived along with humankind (cf. Bar. 3.37). For these events sum up His descent, His gracious humility, His life on earth, and the knowledge of Him that was given to those on earth. The spiritual ladder, the Virgin, has been established on earth, for she had her origin from earth. But her head was lifted up to heaven – for every woman’s head is her husband (Eph. 5.23) – but since this woman knew no man, God the Father served as her head, having dealings with her through the Holy Spirit and sending forth His own Son and Word, that all-powerful force, as it were, a divine, spiritual seed. For with the Father’s good will, it was not by a natural union but from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary that the Word, without change and in a manner above the laws of nature, became flesh and dwelt among us. For the union of God with humanity comes about through the Holy Spirit. Let anyone who can admit this admit it! (Cf. Mt. 19.12). Let anyone who has ears to hear, hear it! (Cf. Lk. 8.8).
~John of Damascus, On the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
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