Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Mother of God) in the Orthodox Church. We had a liturgy and potluck at St. John here in Memphis last night, as feasts are sometimes celebrated the evening before when they fall on weekdays.
Last year’s post on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is called “Stories,” and has a different approach.
But this year I find myself thinking about this feast day from the vantage point of someone who isn’t Orthodox, or Catholic. (Catholics also have a great love for the Mother of God.) Growing up Presbyterian in Mississippi, I didn’t hear much about the Mother of God. But when I became Orthodox in 1987—and really, years earlier on my journey as I learned about Her importance in the Christian faith—I found myself surprised that most protestants don’t hold her dear. She is, after all, the Mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With so much respect and love often being given to our own earthly mothers, it’s just puzzling to me that all Christians don’t “call her blessed.”
It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!
Want to read more about this feast? Here’s a nice article, which is really a lesson plan that can be used in a class: “Examining the Nativity of the Theotokos.”
So, on this first feast day of the Church New Year, we find ourselves also celebrating the Feast Day of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. Yes, icons can have feast days, especially when they are miracle-working icons. God’s incarnation sanctified material things, allowing us to use them in our worship, and in our daily lives. If icons are foreign to you, here are a few links to blog posts and articles that may help:
“Inform, Form, Transform”
“Icons Will Save the World” (published in First Things, December 2007)
“Gabriel’s Day and Modest Copy Continued” shows some of the stages of icon-writing
And here are a couple of posts about an icon-writing workshop I led at St. John Orthodox Church back in 2008:
“Preparing to Receive the Gold”
“Gold Leaf and Beyond”
“Angels of the Lord Finished!”
For those uninitiated about how to look at icons and how to venerate them, I’ll leave you with these words of St. John of Kronstadt:
“When you look upon the icon of the Mother of God with Her Eternal Infant marvel how most truly the Godhead was united with human nature, glorify the goodness and omnipotence of God, and, recognizing your own dignity, as man, live worthily of the high calling to which you are called in Christ—that is, the calling of a child of God and an heir to the eternal Kingdom.”