By Presvytera Vassi Haros
There are hundreds of Christmas songs and hymns. They come in all different shapes and sizes and they range from fun to reverence. You may have heard of a song titled, “Mary, Did You Know?” It’s about the amazing things Jesus did and questions if Mary knew after giving birth that her son would: walk on water, bring the dead to life, give blind men sight, heal the lame… “Did you know your baby boy was Lord of all creation?”
When I first heard it, I thought it was odd that there would be a song about the Panagia from a perspective that she was truly surprised by Christ. Tradition teaches that the Virgin Mary was raised in the Temple and that the Angels kept her company. I imagine there were a few things she did know and that after a virgin birth, she was no longer surprised by much. You might say, she had “seen it all.”
Speaking of Mary, did you know that the day after Christmas we celebrate the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary?
Father Alexander Schmemann, in the Services of Christmas (1981) wrote about the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos…
“… Combining the hymns of the Nativity with those celebrating the Mother of God, the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity—concretely and historically—is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life. This feast, the assembly in honor of the Theotokos, is probably the most ancient feast of Mary in the Christian tradition, the very beginning of her veneration by the Church.
Here are the lyrics to the hymn for her feast:
Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos
He, who was begotten of the Father before the morning star, without a mother, becomes incarnate of you today, without a father. Wherefore, a star announces the good news to the Magi. Angels with shepherds praise your immaculate birth-giving, O Full of Grace.
Furthermore, did you know that on the islands in Greece, the Marys, Marias, Panayiotis and Petes all celebrate on the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary, December 26, as opposed to the more commonly observed date of her Dormition?
May the Virgin Mary embolden us when we are asked to do the impossible.
~Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), “Mary Did You Know?,” http://myocn.net/mary-did-you-know/.
Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She is married to Fr. Athanasios C Haros, a priest in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta.
By Fr. Thomas Hopko
The second day of Christmas in the Orthodox Church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is called the synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos. The Church assembles on this day to honor her through whom the savior has come. The entire creation is indebted to the Lord for its redemption, but the Lord Himself is indebted to Mary who, humanly speaking, by the grace of the Spirit, made possible His coming.
There then follow the three days of the postfeast of the Nativity dedicated to the memory of those who were killed for Christ. First is celebrated the memory of the first Christian martyr, the deacon Stephen. As the hymns of his festival declare, the persecution and death of Christians is an inevitable result of the coming of Christ. Jesus came to die for the truth of God, which is most perfectly actualized in the gift of one’s life that others may live. This is the most Godlike expression of love possible to creatures. Christ’s disciples imitate His example, which is their calling and command, finding within it their highest joy and fulfillment.
~Father Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha, Website of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, http://www.antiochian.org/node/18673.