September 8 – Saint Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28, Feast of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
Deliverer of our Souls: Saint Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28, especially 11: 27, 28: “And it happened, as [Jesus] spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’ But He said, ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” By the exclamation of this “…certain woman from the crowd . . .” God reveals that Mary, the Theotokos, is ‘blessed,’ a truth she confirmed for herself prophetically (Lk. 1:48). Her womb was blessed, for Christ our God took flesh from that womb to redeem our humanity. Her breasts were blessed, for by them the Lord Jesus was nourished for earthly life and ministry. However, primarily, we call the Theotokos blessed because she heard “. . . the word of God and [kept] it” (Lk. 11:28).
The Theotokos is indeed blessed for she lived the conditions of blessedness disclosed by the Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes: poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and the enduring of persecution and slander because of Him (Mt. 5:3-12). She embodied within herself the way by which the Deliverer of our souls extends His blessing to our cursed and fallen race, so that, like her, we might achieve theosis.
The Beatitudes were given first place (Mt. 5:1-12) in the Lord Jesus’ initial teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-7:27). Likewise, the Theotokos was the first of the new race, of those called Christians, who strive to incorporate these truths as foundations for living. She models what God achieves when a person takes the Beatitudes as the working guide for choice and action. In response, the Deliverer of souls meets us in that effort as a yoke-mate (Mt. 11:29), bringing to our effort the additional power we require to attain blessedness.
What the Church knows from meditation and observation of the person and life of the Birthgiver of God is that her Son also was her Deliverer, enabling her to attain theosis, full blessed union of heart, soul, and body with the living God. Mary conceived Christ by accepting the opportunity she was given. The “…woman from the crowd…” (Lk. 11:27) rightly discerned the obedience and faithfulness of the Theotokos and the blessed deification she received.
The Beatitudes, then, become the perfect guide for striving. Can you imagine greater poverty of spirit than was displayed by the Theotokos? “He has regarded the low estate of His maidservant” (Lk. 1:48). Let us not be ashamed to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am not worthy to lift up my eyes to the height of Thy glory.” What greater mourning could there be than the sword that pierced her heart (cf. Lk. 2:35) when her beloved Son and the Deliverer of us all said, “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn. 19:26)?
“Let us not be exalted in our own thoughts, but humble ourselves and cry contritely, God forgive us our sins.” What greater meekness could we seek than what she prayed: “. . . Behold, the maidservant of the Lord” (Lk. 1:38). Let our hunger for righteousness say with her, “…Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38), and pursue the mercy she discloses in saying, “. . . They have no wine” (Jn. 2:3). We, too, may introduce peace into confusion as she did: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (Jn. 2:5). Consider her personal cross as she stood before the Cross of the Lord in silence and deep trust. May she be our icon in all afflictions and trials.
Following the Dormition of the Theotokos, when her tomb was opened for Thomas, the company of Apostles discovered that the Deliverer “Who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb did translate her to life,” for her body was missing from the sealed tomb. May He also bless us to follow her in keeping His Beatitudes!
O Christ, Lover of mankind and Deliverer of our souls, having wrought salvation in the flesh for the lost, renew us to life immortal, through the prayers of the Holy Theotokos.