Born in Damascus around 675, ordained a priest before 726 in Jerusalem, then served as a preacher attached to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, St. John Damascene died around 749. He is the great defender of images representing Christ and the saints, but this defense is secondary to an admirably vast synthesis. The power of this theologian gives a singular scope to his writings or discourses on the Blessed Virgin. Unjustly condemned to have his hand cut off, it was restored to him by the Mother of God.
Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary
Today a rod was begotten from the root of Jesse, out of which a divine flower will arise for the world. Today, He, who once in ancient times established the firmament out of water and raised it up to the heights, has prepared heaven on earth out of earthly nature. And truly heaven is more divine and miraculous than that [firmament]. For the One who at that time prepared the sun, arose from this as a Sun of justice….
O, how many miracles are united in this child, how many alliances are made in her! Offspring of sterility, virginity that bears a child, a mixture of both divinity and humanity, of suffering and impassibility, of life and death, as if for Him the inferior had been vanquished by the greater in all things!
O daughter of Adam and Mother of God! And all these thing, o Master, are for the sake of my salvation! You so loved me that you brought about this salvation, not by means of angels, nor by any creature, but, just as in the first creation, your worked with your own hand my regeneration.… Today the Word of God, who makes all things and whom the Father emitted from His heart, has fashioned a new book which will be written by the tongue of God, as if by a pen which is the Holy Spirit.…
O female, daughter and mother of the King, daughter of King David and Mother of God, the Universal King! O divine, living image in whom God the Creator has rejoiced, possessing a mind which is governed by God and which is devoted to God alone, whose whole aspiration has been directed towards that which alone is desirable and worthy of love and whose anger is directed only against sin and against him who engendered it.
You will have a life superior to nature! For you did not live for yourself, just as you were not born for your own sake. Hence you lived for God, on whose account your have come into life, in order that you may assist in the salvation of the whole world, and in order that the ancient plan of God for the Incarnation of the Word and for our deification may be fulfilled through you.
Your appetite is to feed on the divine words and to be fattened on them, like “a fruitful olive in the house of God,” like a “tree planted by the streams of waters” of the Spirit, like a tree of life, which gave its fruit at the time predetermined by God, fruit which is the Incarnate God, the eternal life of all things. You draw on every thought that is nourishing and useful for the soul, but you reject every one that is superfluous and harmful for the soul before even tasting it.
Your eyes are “continually before the Lord,” seeing eternal and unapproachable light. Your ears hear the divine words and delight in the harp of the Spirit; through them the Word entered that he might become flesh. … Your heart is pure and unblemished, seeing and
desiring the unseen God. Your womb was the home in which the Uncontained dwelt and the breast that gave milk from which God, the little child Jesus, was nourished!
Ever virginal gateway of God! Hands which carried God and knees, a throne higher than the cherubim.… Her whole being is the bridal chamber of the Spirit; her whole being is a city of the living God, which “the flowings of the river gladden,” floods of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. She is “all fair,” entirely the “companion” of God. For she who was raised above the cherubim and the seraphim, as a transcendent being, was called a “companion of God”.…
O daughter of Joachim and Anna and lady, accept an oration from one who is a sinful servant but who is on fire with love and reverence, and who has clung to you alone as hope of joy, supporter of life, mediator towards your Son, and firm pledge of salvation!
May you disperse the burden of my sins and the cloud that overshadows my mind and dissolve my material insensibility! And may you put a stop to my temptations, govern my life in holiness, and lead me by the hand to the blessed state above! May you grant peace to the world and perfect joy and eternal salvation to all the faithful of this city through the prayers of your parents and of the whole body of the Church!