Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
by Saint Andrew of Crete
"The fulfillment of the law is Christ himself, who does not so much lead us away from the letter as lift us up to its spirit. For the law's consummation was this, that the very lawgiver accomplished his work and changed letter into spirit, summing everything up in himself and, though subject to the law, living by grace. He subordinated the law, yet harmoniously united grace with it, not confusing the distinctive characteristics of the one with the other, but effecting the transition in a way most fitting for God. He changed whatever was burdensome, servile and oppressive not what is light and liberating, so that we should be enslaved no longer under the elemental spirits of the world, as the Apostle says, nor held fast as bondservants under the letter of the law.
This is the highest, all-embracing benefit that Christ has bestowed on us. This is the revelation of the mystery, this is the emptying out of the divine nature, the union of God and man, and the deification of the manhood that was assumed. This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the fore-ordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.
Justly, then, do we celebrate this mystery since it signifies for us a double grace. We are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery to the letter of the law. How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light, and grace exchanges legalism for freedom. But midway between the two stands today's mystery, at the frontier where types and symbols give way to reality, and the old is replaced by the new. Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator."
This excerpt is from a discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete (Oratio 1: PG 97, 806-810), and is included in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary on September 8th.
Saint Andrew of Crete, also known as Andrew of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus, Syria circa the mid 7 th century AD. He entered the monastic life in Jerusalem at age 15 and became a cleric in the service of Theodore, Bishop of Jerusalem. In 685AD Andrew was sent by his bishop to assist the Christian Roman Emperor Constantine Pogonatus at the Sixth General Council. Remaining in Constantinople, Andrew distinguished himself as a theologian, homilist, and hymnographer. Later he was appointed to the metropolitan see of Gortyna, Crete.
St. Andrew is fondly remembered as an inventive hymnographer. He introduced a new form of music into Greek liturgical services which some scholars describe as "the highest effort of Greek hymnody." As a homilist he is included among the ranks of the great ecclesiastical orators of the Byzantine era. Andrew died July 4th, 720/740AD. His feast is celebrated on this date in Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Rite churches.
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