Today we rejoice in the birth of Mary the Theotokos, the young lady, mighty in her innocence and faith, through whom the Salvation of our souls was incarnated, born, nurtured, protected and raised. Her humble assent, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word,” led to the wonder of the Uncontainable contained in a womb, of the Almighty God born as a helpless baby boy, of the Sustainer of the universe being nursed at the breast. As she is the Mother of our Lord, and the Church is the Body of Christ, so too, in a mystical yet very real way she is the Mother of the Church and of all her members.
Here are some selections from the many glorious Eastern Orthodox liturgical hymns written for this day, The Feast of the Birth of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos.
Today God who rests upon the spiritual thrones has made ready for Himself a holy throne upon earth. He who made firm the heavens in His wisdom has prepared a living heaven in His love for man. For from a barren root He has made a life-giving branch spring up for us, even His Mother. God of wonders and hope of the hopeless, glory be to Thee, O Lord.
From Great Vespers, by Sergius, Tone Six
Come, all ye who love virginity, and who are friends of purity: come ye and welcome with love the Boast of Virgins. She is the Fountain of Life that gushes forth from the flinty rock; she is the Bush springing from barren ground and burning with the immaterial fire that cleanses and enlightens our souls.
She who was preordained to be the Queen of all and habitation of God, has come forth today from the barren womb of joyful Anna. She is the diverse sanctuary of the eternal Essence; through her, cruel hell has been trampled under foot, and Eve with all her line is established secure in life. It is meet and right that we should cry aloud to her: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”
Long ago in the furnace of the Children hast Thou prefigured Thine own Mother, O Lord. For this image delivered them from the fire, and they walked in the midst of it unconsumed. Thou hast manifested her today to the ends of the earth: her praises do we sing and we exalt her above all for ever.
The preordained Tabernacle of our reconciliation with God now begins to be. It is she who shall bear unto us the Word, appearing in the material substance of the flesh. He has brought us from not being into being: His praises do we sing and we exalt Him above all for ever.
Anna’s barrennes was transformed, thereby destroying the worlds’ barrenness in good things; and this wonder plainly foreshadowed Christ’s coming to dwell with mortal men. He has brought us from not being into being: His praises do we sing and exalt Him above all for ever.
Irmos of First Canon, Canticle Eight, Matins
μακαρίζειν σε τὴν Θεοτόκον,
τὴν ἀειμακάριστον καὶ παναμώμητον,
καὶ Μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶ͂ν.
Τὴν τιμιωτέραν τῶ͂ν Χερουβὶμ,
καὶ ἐνδοξοτέραν ἀσυγκρίτως τῶ͂ν Σεραφίμ,
τὴν ἀδιαφθόρως Θεὸν Λόγον τεκοῦσαν,
τὴν ὄντως Θεοτόκον σε μεγαλύνομεν.
It is truly meet
to bless Τhee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure,
and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Without corruption Τhou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee!
The justly famous Axion Estin. Last four lines by St Cosmas the Melodist, brother of St John Damaskene. First four lines revealed in 980 AD by the Archangel Gabriel, as described here.