Feast of Sts Leontius, Hypatius & Theodulus the Martyrs of Syria
JOACHIM AND ANNA, like spiritual mountains, “have dropped sweetness” (Joel 3.18). Be glad, most blessed Anna, for you have born a female child. This female child will be Mother of God, gateway of light and source of life, and she will do away with the accusation against the female sex. “The rich of the people shall supplicate the person” (cf. Ps. 44.13 LXX) of this female. Kings of nations will venerate this female, offering gifts. You will lead this female to God, the Universal King, as if “robed in golden-tasseled garments” (Ps. 44.14 LXX), which are the well-ordered comeliness of her virtues, and adorned in the grace of the Spirit whose glory is within. For whereas the husband who comes from outside represents the glory of every woman, the glory of the Theotokos is from within, since it is the fruit of her womb.
O desired and thrice-blessed female! “Blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk. 1.42). O female, daughter and mother of the King, daughter of King David and Mother of God, the Universal King. O divine, living image in whom God the Creator has rejoiced, possessing a mind which is governed by God and which is devoted to God alone, whose whole aspiration has been directed towards that which alone is desirable and worthy of love and whose anger is directed only against sin and against him who engendered it, offering a life that is better than human nature! For you did not live for yourself, just as you were not born for your own sake. Hence you lived for God, on whose account you have come into life, in order that you may assist in the salvation of the whole world, and in order that the ancient plan of God for the incarnation of the Word and for our deification may be fulfilled through you. Your appetite is to feed on the divine words and to be fattened on them, like “a fruitful olive in the house of God” (Ps. 51.10), like a “tree planted by the streams of waters” (Ps. 1.3; cf. Rev. 22.2) of the Spirit, like a tree of life, which gave its fruit at the time predetermined by God, fruit which is the incarnate God, the eternal life of all things. You draw on every thought that is nourishing and useful for the soul, but you reject every one that is superfluous and harmful for the soul before even tasting it. Your eyes are “continually before the Lord” (Ps. 24.15 LXX), seeing eternal and unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim. 6.16). Your ears hear the divine words and delight in the harp of the Spirit; through them the Word entered that He might become flesh. Your nostrils are charmed with the scent of the Bridegroom’s ointments, who is Himself a divine ointment which is willingly poured out to anoint His own humanity, for “Your name is ointment poured out,” says Scripture (Song 1.2). Your lips praise the Lord and are attached to His lips. Your tongue and throat discern the words of God and are filled with divine sweetness (cf. Ps. 118.103 LXX). Your heart is pure and unblemished, seeing and desiring the unseen God.
A womb in which the Uncontained dwelt and breasts of milk from which God, the little child Jesus, was nourished! Ever-virginal gateway of God! Hands which carried God and knees, a throne that is higher than the cherubim, through which “weak hands and feeble knees” (Isa. 35.3) were strengthened! Feet which were guided by the law of God as by a lamp of light, and which run behind Him without turning back until they have drawn the beloved One back to the one who loves Him. Her whole being is the bridal chamber of the Spirit; her whole being is a city of the living God which “the flowings of the river gladden” (Ps. 45.5 LXX); that is floods of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. She is “all fair,” entirely the “companion” of God (cf. Song 4.7; 5.16). For she who was raised above the cherubim and the seraphim, as a transcendent being, was called “companion of God.”
O marvel above all marvels! A woman has become higher than the seraphim since God has been seen “made a little less than angels”! (Cf. Ps. 8.6). Let the most wise Solomon be silent and let him not say, “There is nothing new under the sun” (cf. Eccl. 1.9).
—St John of Damascus, Homily on the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos