I had mentioned once in church how the feasts dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos form, in a way, the framework of the church calendar. This is particularly noticeable when we consider the fact that we begin our calendar in September with her nativity and end it in August with her falling asleep. It is as if the church year forms an image, an icon of the Mother of God; a prayer similar to that petition dedicated to her in all of our litanies in which we “commemorate our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Birth-giver of God….let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole lives unto Christ our God”. I think this petition which begins with us commemorating her and ends with us committing ourselves and our lives to Christ our God begins to reveal to us just how great the mystery of the Theotokos is. She is, indeed, the greatest of the Christian Saints yet all of her greatness lies in her obedience, that is, not in doing what she wants but in her response to the holy Archangel’s invitation: “Let it be to me according to your word!”
It is today, in fact, that we celebrate her Nativity and we heard at this morning’s liturgy the gospel reading which is appointed to all Theotokion feasts, the story of the sisters Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42;11:27,28). We’re all familiar with it. Yet, I find it quite peculiar that this episode is preceded by a story given by the Lord about good deeds. Namely, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Subsequently, when we are given the example of Martha right after hearing about the actions of that praised good neighbor we would image her to receive similar acclamations. But such is not the case. Despite her running around to serve the Lord it turns out that Mary, who “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” is the subject of His praise.
Similarly it is in the image of the Theotokos which exemplifies our seeking not only to do good but to be able to hear “His word” for that particular reason – that our good deeds truly be good. After all, it isn’t our serving our neighbor alone which guarantees our salvation. Rather, our good deeds, that “light” which is to shine forth from us is to, in the words of our Lord, “glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In other words, doing not our will but God’s. For indeed only then will we have chosen that “good part which will not be taken away” from us.