(Saturday, September 9)

By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from the reproach of barrenness; Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!” (Kontakion of the Nativity of the Theotokos)

The story of Sts. Joachim and Anna, celebrated on the first major feast of the church year, the Nativity of the Theotokos, is one of being freed from “barrenness” or childlessness after many years of a huge guilt-trip over this, to which their society subjected them. They loved and trusted God and each other, sticking together within this “triangle,” if I can put it that way, and ended up “giving birth” as and when God willed, as a result.

As expressed in the above-quoted hymn, we are called somehow to relate this story to our own “guilt of sin,” which I think is a wonderful topic with which to begin a new church year.
We might think of it this way: Many of us may carry around a certain, internal list of “should haves” and/or “shouldn’t haves,” connected with our failure or inability to produce certain desired results in our lives. We may never have said or done what we should have, with respect to a now departed loved one or a now broken relationship; or we may not be achieving or “performing” in this or that area of our lives efficiently or well enough, and so on. This “guilt of sin” for our voluntary and involuntary shortcomings could make us resentful of ourselves or of others, including God, if we play the blame game. But it alternatively can be lifted from us, and is lifted from us, by God’s grace, when we step into His light and present ourselves to Him, as we are in our “barrenness,” in faith, humility, love for one another, and patience.

Let us get busy loving one another, in the ways we can, making amends where we can, and handing over to God that and those we cannot serve or somehow “fix” at this time. “Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God!”