Nativity of the Theotokos

Nativity of the Theotokos

Celebrated September 8th

The story of Mary's birth is not found in the New Testament, but in the writings which are not part of the [canonical] scriptures. The tradition of this feast teaches that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant - "the poor and needy" - awaiting the promised messiah. The couple was old and childless, and had prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews, barrenness was a sign of God's disfavor. In answer to their prayer, and as a reward for their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah - Christ.

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of Mary's birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from a historical point of view, the divine meaning of it "for us men and for our salvation" is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Theotokos, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore is a glorification of the miracle of Mary's birth, of Mary herself, and of her righteous parents. It is the celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world.

Adapted from The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

About the Icon

An elderly woman, robed in blue and attended by nurses and mid-wives, St. Anna is the central figure of this feast's icon. The Theotokos is shown both held in the arms of a nurse at her mother's bedside, beheld in wonder, and being presented to the gray-bearded Joseph by another nursemaid (lower right).

Adapted from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.

Click [HERE] for a black & white icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos to color (GIF format, 48 KB).


Thy nativity, O Virgin,
has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
has shone on thee, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse,
He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death,
He has granted us Eternal Life.


By thy nativity, O Most-Pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness, and Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death. And we, Thy people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to Thee: The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our life.

© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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