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Orthodox Spirituality

Sermons of Archpriest Anthony B. Gavalas

The Tears of Mothers

Conception of the Theotokos
and 10th Sunday of Saint Luke
9/22 December 2002

+ + + In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. + + +

From the time of our mother Eve, how many tears were shed by mothers and grandmothers in the entire Old Testament? How many tears were shed by all of those who seeing about them the inequity, the injustice, and the hopelessness of life after the fall, after the exile from paradise? How many tears did our father Adam shed? How many tears did our mother Eve shed?

All through the Old Testament, because the light of God was not seen clearly but only dimly through the teachings of the holy prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament, only dimly did the light shine forth from the Holy Trinity upon the people of God and upon the rest of the world. There was relative darkness; there was relative grief; there was relative desolation; and everyone lived in expectation of relief from this, according to the promises that had been given by God to Adam and Eve, and had been renewed through the words of the holy prophets. How many tears were shed by the foremother of God, by the grandmother of our Savior, St. Anna, who bewailed and grieved over her barrenness. For not only was it a personal grief but in the Old Testament, barrenness was considered to be a curse upon married couples. She had had no child, and she wept and she bewailed her barren condition, not only personally as we said, but because it made her a second class citizen of the people of Israel. She had been cursed, that this mark had been set upon her, and she wept, and she wept many tears. How many tears did this woman, this lame woman, who had been bound by a spirit of Satan for 18 years, how many tears did she shed over her hunchback, over her being bowed over and unable to lift up her eyes and to see her fellow man, but always was condemned to look upon the earth? Her tears were many, her grief was great, and from that grief her face was always moistened with the tears of sadness.

But upon the feast that we celebrate today, all of those tears are wiped away; all of the tears of our foremother Eve and of our father Adam; all of the tears of the women and mothers of the Old Testament are wiped away; all of the tears of the blessed grandmother of our Savior St. Anna are wiped away; all of the tears of the hunchbacked woman are wiped away today because today we celebrate the conception of the Most Holy Theotokos, the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises that our Lord God had made unto His people; the fulfillment of those promises that there would be a Messiah born, and that Messiah would save Israel and indeed all of the world from its sins and thereby wipe away all sadness, all grief, anything negative from the faces of those who would believe in Him.

For years St. Anna had prayed that she might be granted a child. For years St. Joachim, having had his gifts to the temple returned to him with scorn by the servants of the temple had prayed that he be given a child. And here it was now in the 50th year of their marriage, and they were both very very old, certainly in their seventies, perhaps in their eighties, when this blessed event occurs, when this blessed news occurs that Anna will at last give birth. And she will give birth in a natural way, according to the laws of nature she will give birth to a child, to a daughter, who in her own way, who from her in a supernatural way will be born Him, will be born the Messiah, will be born He Who is One of the Holy Trinity, the Son and Word of the Father, that He will take on flesh from her, and having taken on that flesh, having taken on that which is human, our soul, our body everything about us will sanctify it by uniting it with the Divine, and He Himself will become that bridge over which anyone who wishes to be saved can be saved. All tears are wiped away; all sadness is gone; all grief is abolished because she who is to give birth to the Savior of mankind is being born. And we are the beneficiaries of this legacy. We who are blessed to be called Christians are the beneficiaries of this birth, which is why the Holy Church places it so that we might notice. We are the beneficiaries of the conception and of the birth of the Theotokos, for she is our representative, she is that person for whom Israel had hoped during all of its existence. This is everything; this is the fruit of all of the grief of Israel; this is what has happened as the result of the exiles, of the beatings, of the scourgings, of the defeats, of the humiliations of Israel, which were meant to cleanse it, were to bring it to the point where it could produce the Most Holy Theotokos.

If one were to ask what is the subject of the Old Testament, the subject of the Old Testament in one sentence is that Israel labors to produce that pure vessel, the Most Holy Theotokos from Saints Joachim and Anna.

As we find ourselves in this period of preparation for the commemoration of the birth of our salvation, that is Jesus Christ, we too must take notice of this joyful event, and we must give thanks to our Lord God, we must give thanks to the Holy Trinity that we have been born Christians, that out of the millions and millions of people upon the earth we have been privileged to call ourselves and to be Christians. How is that any one of us therefore can go with a darkened face; how can any of us have any sadness in our life; how can any of us have any grief at the various things that befall us? For we have a hope that no one else has; we have an assurance that no one else has; we have an election that is unique in all of mankind. We are Christians. And if we will just only be consistent with our election; if we will only be consistent with this calling that we have and live according to the desires of the Holy Trinity, then all of the promises that have been made to us, all of the promises that have been given to us through our Savior, Who transmitted them to the Holy Evangelists and who have given them to us through the Holy Fathers, all of these promises will be fulfilled in us. That is that after our life here upon the earth, after this life which admittedly is not a life of unadulterated joy, but is mixed heavily with griefs, heavily with sadness, heavily with sinfulness, that after this life we will be taken into the heavens there to be co-inheritors of that blessed Kingdom which has been prepared for those who love God.

Therefore as we stand in the church today in the midst of our fast of preparation for the coming of our Savior, for the Feast of the Nativity of our Savior, let us strive to have our prayers more fervent, our fast more consistent, our almsgiving more generous, our expectation with greatest of possible anticipation, our preparation for keeping the feast with the greatest possible joy. So that every tear from our face can also be wiped away; every grief that is in our life can also be put away; and that having striven the best that we can here in this life, we might be vouchsafed of that salvation in Christ Jesus, for which the Most Holy Theotokos was born, for which He was born from her, and Who has given us these promises.

To Him and to His Father, and to the Holy Spirit, to the Holy Trinity Which has saved us be glory and honor unto the ages of ages.


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