Great Feasts of the Fixed Cycle
The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos (September 8)
The first Great Feast to fall in the Church Year is the Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos. It is entirely fitting that at the beginning of the new religious year all Orthodox Christians should come before the highest example of human holiness that the Orthodox Church holds precious and venerates that of Mary, the Theotokos and Mother of God. This day is seen as one of universal joy; for on this day the boundary of the Old and New Covenants was born the Most-Blessed Virgin, pre-arranged from the ages by Divine Providence to serve the mystical Incarnation of God the Word.
The first Old Testament Reading of Vespers (Gen. 28:10-17) speaks of the dream of Jacob, one of the Old Testament Patriarchs, when he fled the wrath of his brother Esau. He saw a ladder extending from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending. When he awoke, Jacob blessed with oil the stone on which he had slept and called it Bethel, meaning house of God. The Most-Pure Mother of God is seen here as that ladder between heaven and earth, uniting earth with heaven in her womb. She who carried God in her womb is truly Bethel, none other than the house of God...and the gate of heaven (Gen. 28:17).
A Story from Holy Orthodox Tradition
by Fr. Michael J. Buben
from The Word, March 1960
According to the witness of Holy Scripture, the old Simeon was a man “just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” (Luke 2, 25). From God, Simeon had been foretold about the coming of the True Messiah. Ancient historians teach us the following about Saint Simeon.
The great and divinely inspired work of translating the Old Testament Books from the Hebrew to the Greek language was begun by Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt (Seventy-two (sometimes referred to as 70) Hebrew elders from the twelve tribes of Israel were selected for the work of translation. Each Hebrew elder was a teacher of Mosaic Law, a Scriptural Scholar, and proficient in both the Greek and Hebrew languages. These divinely inspired men brought forth the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Among these scholars who translated the Books of the Old Testament into Greek on the island of Pharos, near the city of Alexandria was the elder Simeon.
While translating the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Simeon came to the words; “Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son” (Isaiah 7, 14). Reading them, he became confused, thinking that it was impossible for a Virgin without husband to give birth. Simeon took a knife and was ready to erase the word — Virgin — and substitute the word — wife. At this time an angel of God appeared, held Simeon’s hand and said: