9 December ~ The Conception of the Theotokos

The Conception of the Theotokos by Saint Anna is commemorated by the Orthodox Church on December 9. St. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She married St. Joachim, who was a native of Galilee. For many years, St. Anna was childless and the couple suffered much reproach for her barrenness. When they were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, the High Priest, Issachar, upbraided Joachim, “You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands.” Both spouses gave themselves to fervent prayer, and the Archangel Gabriel announced to them separately that they would be the parents of a daughter who would bring blessings to the whole human race.

The barren Ann leaped for joy when she gave birth to Mary the Virgin, who will in turn give birth in the flesh to God, the Word.  Overflowing with happiness, she cried out: “Rejoice for me, O all tribes of Israel, for I have given birth according to the will of God, my Benefactor, who answered my prayer and wiped out my shame.  According to His promise, He has healed the pains of my heart through the pains of birth-giving.” (From the Vespers of the Feast)

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