In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we celebrated the Nativity of our Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of God yesterday, and today, we celebrate the Holy and Righteous Ancestors of God, Saints Joachim and Anna, mother of our beloved Theotokos. Our Most Holy Theotokos, and Holy Ancestors Saints Joachim and Anna, pray for us all.

We place exceptional importance on our Theotokos, Bearer of God, because she was the first saint, the first human being to reach a complete communion with God, what we call “Theosis”. She answered “Yes!” to God, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her with the good news. And our beloved Theotokos showed us the road ahead of us, that when we answer “yes!” to God, we pave our journey towards Theosis, however uncertain and frail we may be. Our Most Holy Theotokos, and her parents, Saints Joachim and Anna, were free-willed human beings just like us, and showed us that nothing is impossible when mankind agrees with God’s Divine Will and Love. That is what sainthood means, and what we can find when we reflect on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Proverbs 3:1-12.

And that is exactly why we venerate saints. They inspire us that as mere human beings, every one who professes the faith in God and bears the cross of Christ, will find every bit of energy to walk towards God.

Today we also celebrate Venerable Theophanes the Confessor in the 3rd century, who became a Christian in his youth, and left his pagan parents to learn from an elderly ascetic the monastic life and Holy Scriptures. When the elder reposed, Saint Theophanes spent his next 58 years in prayer inside a cave. Eventually the saint came down from the cave to preach the faith to many pagans and converted many to Christianity. The saint was eventually arrested and tortured for his evangelism, but he was eventually released alive. He went back to the cave and lived there for another 17 years and reposed in peace in the year 300. Saint Theophanes the Confessor, pray for us.

In all our daily journeys of toil, labor, sweat and tears, remember St Mark 6:30-45, that we need to sometimes find a quiet corner and rest. Only in solitude and silence, as many of the Desert Fathers and other monastic saints have shown us, can we find the tranquility in our hurried lives to talk with God, and especially to exalt and pray unto Him. Do not allow the daily grind enslave us, but always tear ourselves away, however busy, to at least a moment in a day that we pray unto God.

Galatians 3:23-4:5 reminded us that all of us who professes the faith in God through Christ our Lord, are sons and daughters of God, without prejudice. Do not imagine that we are lesser, nor should we think we are greater. But rejoice with humility, that God has gifted us with His tender mercy where we are working towards a journey towards Him.

When we venerate upon the icon of our Most Holy Theotokos, let us keep virgil that we are to obey the commands of God, in humility and faith, much as she has shown us beautifully in Holy Scripture. Remember the Holy Name of Christ our Lord, because through Him do we find the strength and love to continue to walk towards God. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings:
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Proverbs 3:1-12
St Mark 6:30-45
Galatians 3:23-4:5