The Nativity of the Mother of God – September 21, 2021
Thy Nativity, O Theotokos Virgin,
hath proclaimed joy to all the world;
for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing,
abolishing death and granting us life eternal.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God announces the coming of the joy of salvation into the world. This is what the troparion of the feast talks about. The fullness of this joy comes to fruition with the cross of the Son of the Holy Virgin. One of the stanzas in the Canon, the katavasia that is sung in the next feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, speaks of Aaron’s rod flowering to indicate the eventual fruitfulness of the Old Testament church. Now today’s story of the feast is just as much about Joachim and Anna and the generations that came before them as it about the Mother of God and the joy of her birth which we celebrate today. Stories about transformation through prayer, blooming, becoming fruitful.
Today’s world thinks about overcoming Coronavirus, overcoming this virus seems to be the central problem of the world. Now since last year I have mentioned in various ways that there has been a much more serious virus around for much longer – a spiritual virus that is the cause of all our problems including the coronavirus, and everything else that goes with it. I’d like to share something with you, to read you a passage. This passage is one of the first of the great Christian novels by Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment. It’s a dream that the central hero, Raskolnikov, has when he is sent for his crime of murder to serve hard labour and he gets very sick during Great Lent. While he experiences high fever he has this dream. Dostoyevsky clearly saw the appearance of the virus - the spiritual virus - which I’ve been talking about since last year. A virus that has led to destruction, to the wars. The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars, then on the heels of this war came the Russian Revolution which sparked a whole host of processes; the appearance of other totalitarian regimes later on including Nazi Germany and the Asian communist regimes, the ones in Central, Eastern Europe and so on. So here is the passage:
“He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except the very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men. But these microbes were endowed with intelligence; intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious, but never have men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers. Never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge, and could not agree what to consider evil and what good. They did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless fight. They gathered together in armies against one another but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other. The ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other stabbing and attacking and devouring each other…”
I’ll stop there because the dream goes on longer, but I think this is enough of an illustration of what I’ve been trying to convey to you several times since last year about the spiritual process. This is what it is. And today’s Feast teaches us that only transformation through prayer can help. Only God can save us through Christ who speaks about this, and He says that this spiritual virus can only be defeated through prayer and fasting. We actually heard those words quite recently just after the Feast of Holy Transfiguration. So let us increase our prayers and our fasting , which is as I explained on many occasions is not just about a change of diet. Fasting is about control and self-limitation in thought, in word, and in deed. That’s what it’s about. If we do that we will be free of that much more serious and deadly virus, the spiritual virus, and we won’t even worry about many of the other things that seem to be so central in today’s world.
Most Holy Mother of God save us with your prayers. Protect us, protect the Church, protect the world. For you are the Mother of the Saviour, to whom is due glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Sermon by the Very Rev Father Nicholas Karipoff