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Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

The basis of the veneration of Mary in the Church has always been her obedience to God, free the trust placed in it on human unheard appeal. Orthodox Church in general has always stressed this relationship of Mary to mankind, and, if I may say so, admired her as the best, the purest, the sublime fruit of human history, the human search for God, and in Him – the latter sense, the content of the last of humanity itself.

In the West, in Western Christianity, in the center of the veneration of Mary was always the image of her as a virgin, virginity, which is not broken was motherhood, for the Orthodox East this core of his love for Mary, the contemplation of her and – I repeat – a joyful admiration it with itself beginning has been and remains her motherhood, her blood relationship with Jesus Christ.

Orthodox East especially glad that in the coming of the Son of God on earth, in the salvific manifestation of God made man to reunite his person with his divine vocation, that it took part in the coming humanity itself. If the most joyous and profound Christian faith – a “connaturally” Christ
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to us, that this is truly the people, and not a ghost, not a mysterious phenomenon that he – one of us, forever with us his humanity connected, then clear it becomes, and that loving reverence that He is humanity, our flesh and blood, gave. That, by which He, Christ, could call himself as he always called himself “Son of Man”. The Son of God, Son of Man …

God sniskhodyaschy to person to person to make divine, or, as the teachers of the Church, – deify, to make partakers of the Divine. It is here, in this stunning revelation about the true nature of the true vocation of man – a source of gratitude, loving relationship to Mary as our relationship with Christ, and in Him – with God.

And nowhere is this more clearly revealed than in the Nativity of the Virgin festival. About this event there is no mention in Scripture. And what can be said about the special child birth, birth, like every birth. And if the Church has become a special holiday to remember and celebrate this event, it is not because it was something exceptional, wonderful, out of the ordinary, no, but just because the very ordinariness of it reveals a new and radiant sense in all what we call “ordinary”, it gives a new depth the details of human life, of which we so often say that they are “nothing remarkable”.

But look at the icon of the holiday, peer into her spiritual our eyes. Here on the bed – just a woman who gave birth to a daughter. Church tradition says that her name was Anna. Next to her – the father, whose name, according to the same tradition – Joachim. Next to the bed women commit first bath newborn. The most ordinary, nothing remarkable event.

But is it? Does an icon of the Church tell us, first of all wants, that the birth of the world, in the life of a new human being – it is a miracle of all miracles, the miracle is tearing routine, because there the beginning, which is no longer and will never end. Getting single and unique human life, the emergence of a new identity, in which the appearance as if the world is going on again, and now – offered is given to this new man as his life as his way of his creativity.

So, the first thing that we celebrate this holiday, it’s coming into the world of man, coming, of which the Gospel says that when it is done, we will not “remember already mourning because of the joy that a man is born into the world.”

Second, we now know, whose birth, whose coming we celebrate. We know the uniqueness, the beauty, the grace of this particular child’s fate, its importance for us and for the whole world.

And third – we celebrate all that and all those who have prepared as if Mary, filled it with that grace and beauty. Here are today a lot of talk about heredity, giving it some slave’s, deterministic sense. The church also believes in heredity, but spiritual. How much faith, how much good, how many generations of people who lived and highest heavens, it was necessary that on the tree of humanity has grown this amazing and fragrant flower – Holy Virgin and all-holy Mother! And because it is also a celebration of humanity, faith in him, the joy of it.

Alas, we know better and clearer evil heredity. And really, how much evil around us that this faith in man, in his freedom, in the possibility of good and light heredity almost eroded into us and replaced by skepticism and distrust. However, it is this evil skepticism is weary incredulity calls us to alienate the Church on the day that celebrates it – and with what joy and faith – the birth of a little girl, which, as it were concentrated goodness, moral beauty, the perfection, which constitute the true human nature . She, this girl is born, and in her encounters the world coming to him, Jesus. He is our gift – He was our encounter with God. And here we are on the way to the cave of Bethlehem, to the joyful mystery of the divine Motherhood.

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Perpetual virginity, that is, the eternal Virginity of Mary, the Church celebrates the daily chanting a prayer, facing her: “Mother of God, Virgin, rejoice, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee …”.

Does it need proof that this belief in the Immaculate Conception, in the virginity of Mary is for many people a kind of “stumbling block and temptation”, the subject of misunderstandings and incomprehension, a pretext for accusations of Christianity in superstition, and so on. D. In the bewilderment of these believers usually respond : it is a miracle that we believe in is to be believed, “but to understand it can not …

The answer is that, for self-evident believers, you must still be clarified. On the one hand, it goes without saying that if, as the faithful believe is God – the Creator of the world and life and all its laws, God is all-powerful to break these laws, that is, to do that which an ordinary human language is called a miracle. Miracle – it’s something that goes beyond the laws of nature led us, that, in contrast to the “natural”, we perceive as supernatural. If God – God, he is obviously infinitely rises above the “laws of nature”, is all-powerful, all-powerful and totally free.

All this is true, and the belief that denies a miracle, that is, subordinating God limited the laws of nature – is, of course, not faith.

But this does not mean that we – believing Christians – not allowed to ask himself, asking his faith – a sense of wonder. For the fact of the matter is that the Christian understanding of the miracle, the understanding that comes from the Gospel, from Christ Himself, – understanding this particular, requires us to profound spiritual attention. First of all, the image of Christ. Gospel precludes understanding the miracle as a proof, as a fact, coercing a person to believe.

I say – the image of Christ … In fact, if that dominates in this unique way, it does not wish to “prove” with the help of a miracle his divinity, but on the contrary – the ultimate humility. The Apostle Paul writes about Christ amazing words: “Who, being in very nature God … emptied himself, taking the form of a servant … he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross …”.

Nowhere, never, never Christ did not say that he was born miraculously – have not used this “evidence”. And when He hung on the Cross, all left in the terrible agony of its surrounding mocked Him requirement is a miracle, “Come down from the cross, and we will believe in you.” But he did not come down from the cross, and they did not believe in Him. Those who believe – believe it is because He did not come down from the cross, because felt the whole Divinity, the infinite height is humility, it is forgiveness that shined from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do …” .

I repeat, there is in the Gospel, is not a genuine Christian faith relationship to a miracle as proof. And no, because such evidence – with the help of a miracle – deprives a person of the fact that Christianity finds it most precious, deprive him of his liberty. Christ wants to make people believe in it freely and not be forced to believe “a miracle.” “If you love me, – he says, – you will keep My commandments …”. And we love Christ – in that, alas, is too weak a measure in which we love – not for anything, not for omnipotence, no, but for His love, humility, for in the words of those who heard Him, that “never said a person like this man. ”

But Christ worked miracles: The Gospel is full of stories about healing the sick He, the revitalization of the dead, etc. And therefore appropriate to ask:.. What then is their meaning, these miracles that Christ is still the world? If Christ, according to the evangelist, did not make miracles out there that do not believe in Him, if He rebuked the people for what they expect and want from Him the miracle, why he did it? Only by answering this question, we can, perhaps, understand the miracle of all miracles – the perpetual virginity of Mary, his mother, and unwavering faith in the Church is a miracle.

First of all, all the wonders that we know from the Gospels, Christ was committed out of love. “He had compassion on them …” – says the Evangelist. He took pity on the girl’s parents died, the widow who lost her only son, of celebrating and rejoicing, who did not have enough wine for the blind, lame, suffering. And this means that the miracle has been and remains a source of love. Not for myself, not to glorify themselves, reveal yourself, your divinity, to prove it to people, it creates the miracle of Christ, but only because he loves and loving, can not bear the suffering hopelessly enslaved by an evil man.

This explanation, however, it seems, does not apply to the miracle in question: the birth of Christ from the Virgin to her perpetual virginity … It is really only in its essence a miracle, so to speak, a secret, only faith open and only by faith Make sure your source is in our faith in the fact that Christ is God who became man, to assume our humanity in order to save him. Rescue from what? Yes, just from a complete, hopeless enslavement of nature and its inexorable laws, that makes us just a part of nature, only matter, only “flesh and blood”. But the man – not only from nature. It is, first of all, from God, from the free love of God, of the Spirit.

And that’s just it asserts our faith: Christ is God, God, His Father – God himself. With Him, with His birth, His coming into the world begins a new humanity, which is not of flesh and lust, which we have subjected ourselves, but from God. God Himself is engaged to humanity in the person of His best fruit: the Blessed Virgin Mary, and through her, through her faith and obedience gives us His only begotten Son. As the world enters, contact connects the New Adam, and restore order – first – that was not “nature”, but by God. That’s what – with awe and joy – we learn, if we believe in Christ, which is why, taking Him as Lord and Savior, we will know in his mother radiant perpetual virginity, and through it – the victory in the world of Spirit and Love of matter and its laws.

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