|02 - NATIVITY OF THE THEOTOKOS. HIDDEN MYSTERY OF GOD NOW REVEALED, Sept 8, 2019|
The celebration of the nativity of the Most Beloved Virgin Theotokos invites us to reflect on why she is so honored and loved by all those who confess her Son to be the Son of God incarnate. Indeed! To honor and love her as is meet and right opens our eyes to see nothing less than the theological vision of Holy Scripture.
St Paul writes: the “mystery of God hidden from the ages and generations is Christ in you, our hope of Glory!” (Col 1:26-27) Who that confesses Jesus to be the Christ, God the WORD incarnate, could deny that Christ is in you because He came to be flesh and blood in the Most Blessed Virgin? Clearly, the Blessed Panagia is central to the mystery of God hidden from the ages and generations. Let’s consider how she is so.
First, how was the mystery of God hidden from the ages? “Ages” has to do with creation. I believe we see the “mystery of God” hiding in the very beginning of creation or of the “ages”. The Spirit of God, it says, was brooding over the face of the waters. Can you see that the Spirit of God was overshadowing the waters as the womb from which the Father, by His WORD, would bring forth the creation? The image of the Spirit brooding over the waters looks to be the same as the Glory of God, in the form of a fiery, luminescent Cloud, overshadowing the Tabernacle built by Moses (Ex 40:35). The same Cloud fills the Temple built by Solomon. (2 Chr 7:1) And, the same Cloud fills the Temple Ezekiel sees in his vision (Eze 44:4 passim, cf. Eze 10:4). In each instance, the Temple is so filled with the Glory of God, no one could enter it. No one was holy enough.
This same Cloud overshadowed Mt Sinai, in which God gave the Law to Moses. We see in this how the Law of God, which is centered on the construction of the Temple and the rubrics of its worship—following the pattern of the Heavenly Temple (Ex 25:9)—is revealed to Moses in the same Cloud or Spirit of God in which God the WORD creates heaven and earth.
What mystery of God hides in all this? First, we see that heaven and earth are the Temple of God. (Ps 148:13) The Temple of Israel with its worship, then, is the mystery, the principle, the meaning of creation. To worship God in Spirit and in Truth is to enter the Cloud, the Spirit, of the LORD’s Glory and into the Temple of God’s creation. Second, the link between the Temple and creation that we see in the Cloud or in the Glory of the LORD that broods over or overshadows them reveals to us that the Temple of the LORD is the “beginning” of creation and that its sanctuary is the “womb” in which life is conceived and from which it comes forth into manifestation.
So, when we read in St Luke’s Gospel that the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin, when the Spirit of God filled her womb as He filled the Temple of Israel, and God the WORD was conceived in her, what’s being revealed is that she is the Living Temple of God of whom the Temple of Israel was the prophetic image. And, we have every reason to expect that Life will come forth from her—and is not her Son, God the WORD, Himself the Resurrection and the Life? (Jn 11:25)
We believe that Our Most Beloved Lady is the true Temple of Israel whom the LORD fills with His Glory, His Holy Spirit, so that, no man can enter her. That is, she remains virgin. She is the Bride of God, not of man. God is her husband, and she is His faithful bride, as Israel was called to be. The LORD, the Son of God, conceived in her womb as her Son, becomes one with her as her Child. He clothes Himself in her flesh and blood, becomes Son of Man in her. In her, His Holy Mother, His own Living Temple, the Crown of all creation, the LORD dwells not among us—this He did in the Temple of Israel—but in us, in our own flesh and blood. He builds, as it were, the flesh and blood He receives from His Holy Mother, into the Temple of His Body.
In the Light of our faith in Our LORD Jesus Christ, the hidden Mystery of God is revealed to us. We see that the True Temple of the Old Covenant is the Virgin Theotokos. She brings forth the Temple of the New Covenant, God the WORD incarnate, in the Temple of His Body, which He built from His Mother’s own flesh and blood. The LORD is now in us as one of us. (Phil 2:5-11, Heb 2:14) In the Temple of His flesh, the LORD offers Himself as the living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. By His death on the Cross in obedience to the Father, He tramples down our death. His Cross He makes to be the instrument of our salvation; for, by it we put to death all that is earthly in us to find ourselves one with Him in His resurrection, restored to our original beauty in the Image and Likeness of God.
We love and honor the Virgin because, apart from her, none of this would have come to be!
So, how was the mystery of God hidden from the generations? The generations are fathers and mothers and the children born of them. Now, the LORD Jesus Christ was not conceived of male seed. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. How, then, are we to understand the “Seed” of Abraham, which St Paul identifies as Christ (Gal 3:16)?
The Church’s liturgical texts tell us. In the generations flowing through the seasons, days and years from the “Seed” of Abraham, hidden in the genes and chromosomes of all the moms and dads of the Savior’s human ancestry, the LORD was “building” His Holy Temple, until He brought her forth as the daughter born of Joachim and Anna. The mystery of God hidden from the ages, the Temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision, and vividly described (chptrs 43-47), the Living Temple of God in which the “Prince,” the LORD, was to enter by way of the Gate facing East (Eze 46:1-2), comes now into plain sight. And what is the hidden mystery now revealed? The True Temple of God is not a stone building or a tabernacle made of animal skins. It is a woman of flesh and blood. It is the Virgin Mary, most blessed, most pure, who is to become the Mother of Our God. As the LORD’s Tomb is the Font of our Resurrection, I believe we must say that His Holy Mother is the Font of His Incarnation; for this is what made His death and resurrection in the flesh, our salvation, possible!
Who that loves Jesus Christ, who that longs for His appearing would not greet the birth of the Holy Virgin with wonder, what Christ-loving soul would not quicken with fear and awe in the fragrant beauty of her luminous presence? Whose breath would not be caught in holy joy at the sight of her? For, her birth is the revelation of the LORD’s Holy Temple, “built” through the generations, through the flow of the seasons, days and years, not by Moses, not by Solomon, but by the LORD Himself! For, remember, as were Abraham and Sarai, so were Joachim and Anna barren! It was the LORD who vivified Joachim’s seed as he did Abraham’s so that, as Sarai was made ble to bring forth Isaac, the “Seed” of Israel, so Anna was made able to conceive and bring forth the Daughter of the King, the Fruit of Abraham’s loins, her who was to become the Living Temple of God made not of stone but of flesh and blood, not of brick and mortar but of the love of an undivided heart of flesh (cf. Eze 11:19, 36:26), the Mother of Our LORD, God and Savior Jesus Christ!
The birth of the Most Beloved Panagia reveals the Temple of God now among us, no longer hidden—at least to those who have eyes to see! That means, for those who long for the LORD’s appearing, that His appearing is imminent! But more than that! It means He is about to appear not in fearsome thunder and lightning as He did on Mt Sinai, but in the flesh as a little child born of Zion, the Holy Mountain, the Virgin Theotokos, the Son of God becoming one of us as Son of Man, emptying Himself in His love and extreme humility to share in our flesh and blood, even to the point of sharing in our death. Why on earth would He do this? So that in faith, in the fear of God and in love, we may draw near and become one with Him in His Glorious Resurrection!
See how the Mystery of God in His Holy Temple, the Most Blessed and Glorious Virgin Theotokos, is hidden from the ages and generations as threads are hidden in a beautiful curtain. Hidden in the beauty of heaven and earth, hidden in the movements of sun and moon, the flow of the seasons, the days and years in which families are raised and the generations pass, hidden in the intricate workings of the human body, in the genetics of Israel’s moms and dads, in the “seed” of Abraham, the “loins” of David, is the Mystery of Christ in you because He has fashioned the “seed” of Abraham into His Holy Temple, the Virgin Theotokos, whose womb is revealed to be more spacious than the heavens, her body a throne in whom all of creation rejoices, for from her and through her, God is with us! He is with us in the flesh, in our birth, in our growing, even in our dying and in our death! And, in His death in the flesh, in our flesh, we are raised from death to life! But, more than that! Because He became Son of Man, born of the Virgin, we can become sons of God born from above in the Spirit from the Womb of the LORD’s Bride, the Church—the uterus ecclesiae, the womb of the Church, the baptismal font!
But, can you see the deeper sense in which the Virgin is of the Seed of Abraham? She is the embodiment, the incarnation of Abraham’s faith. For, her “Yes,” was out of no legal requirement but from her freely given consent to the LORD’s will out of her heart’s undivided love for God. In the faith of Our Most Beloved Panagia the mystery of the Christian Faith is revealed to us not as an ideology or a belief system, but as the very life of Christ, expressed not in words but in living. The life of Christ received in faith is God’s life woven thread by thread into the fabric of our earthly life. To confess the Christian faith is to live no more in the world, but in Christ as the Life of our life, to breathe no more in the air of the world’s opinions and values, but in the fragrance of the Holy Spirit and the LORD’s Most Beloved Holy Mother. To enter the Cloud of the Christian Faith is to find oneself being held in the arms of the Savior’s loving Mother who carried in her arms the all-merciful God.
In the Theotokos, then, we carry in our bodies the life-creating death of her Son, our LORD Jesus Christ, who by His death, has brought forth a New Creation, transfiguring our dying into the revelation of His life that is now in us (2 Cor 4:10), hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Amen!