Dear Parish Faithful,
It may very well be true that the Holy Days of the Church can no longer successfully "compete" with our secular holidays for the attention and/or presence of the faithful, especially when they coincide according to date. Instead of trying to explain this rather troubling phenomenon, I will simply say, philosophically: what is - is. Be that as it may, many of our parish faithful made a truly valiant effort to dispel such a notion by their presence for the current Feast Day of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as the eve, at least, coincided with Labor Day. There was a substantial group present yesterday evening for Great Vespers, and since this morning's group at the Liturgy was basically different, it meant that a good, representative body of the faithful was present for this light-bearing Feast of the birth of the young child, Miriam of Nazareth, chosen to be the God-bearer "in the fulness of time." Such "signs of life" are always hopeful and encouraging. My old seminary professor would always say that a sign of a spiritually-healthy parish was the strength of its reverence and love for the Ever-Virgin Mary and Theotokos, the "New Eve," and the Mother of all the followers of Christ.
St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) delivered a homily to the faithful of Thessalonika on this Feast Day that included this uplifting exhortation:
But you, O sacred audience, who listen to my words, my human flock and field in Christ, offer your exercise of the virtues and your progress in them as a birthday gift to the Mother of God: both men and women, elderly people along with younger ones, rich and poor, leaders and subjects, those of absolutely every race, age, rank, profession and branch of learning. Let none of you have a soul which is barren and without fruit. Let nobody be unloving or unreceptive to the spiritual seed. May each of you eagerly accept this celestial seed, the word of salvation (cf. LK. 8:11), and by your own efforts bring it to perfection as a heavenly work and fruit pleasing to God. Let no one make a beginning of a good work which brings no fruit to perfection (cf. Lk. 8:14), nor declare his faith in Christ only with his tongue. "Not every one, it says, "that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but rather he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven" (MATT. 7:21), and, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Lk. 9:62)
The Leavetaking of the Feast is on Saturday. On Sunday, we will begin preparing for the next major Feast Day of the Elevation of the Cross. Sunday evening we will serve Great Vespers with the procession of the Cross at 6:00 p.m. The Liturgy will be on Monday morning, September 14, at 9:30 a.m.