Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mariam the "Batoul"- Holy Mother of God.
Archimandrite Touma Bitar.

Sermon of the Holy Fathers’ Sunday.
24 December 2017.

           In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We are now in the period of the feast of Nativity, and according to the liturgical calendar, the celebration started on Friday, and will be completed tomorrow, God’s willing.
Therefore today, which is the Sunday before Christ’s Nativity, is included in the period of the Nativity feast, where the holy fathers of the Lord Jesus in the flesh are mentioned.
Today, I would like to reflect upon the subject of the Holy Theotokos.
What is the one thing that the Most Holy Theotokos offered, that no one had ever offered before?... And nevertheless everyone is called to offer?.
We call the Most Holy Theotokos, Virgin, but this word “virgin”, needs to be clarified according to the understanding of our days. Is the Virgin, a woman who didn’t get married?. If so, therefore, not only in the time of the Mother of God, but rather at all times, there are women considered virgins, since they never got married. Consequently, the word “virgin” doesn’t only mean the one who is not married.
What does it mean then when it is given to the Theotokos?.
The Mother of  God offered her chastity, in the full sense of the word. And moreover, she never knew a man, of course, nor did she ever get married. Hence, we should shed the light on the chastity of Mariam.
What is the meaning of “chastity”?.
“Chastity” in its deep divine sense is to abstain from all the wrongdoing towards God, and all that is against God’s word, or which deviates from His commandment. In other words, “chastity” is for the person to abstain from the indecency which is forbidden by God. Practically, the chaste is the righteous one. Only the righteous pleases God, that is why, we are speaking about the righteous people. All the saints we call them righteous, being martyrs, bishops, men or women… They are all righteous in the sight of God, which means, they pleased Him with their pure way of living. Therefore, Mariam was chaste, besides being a virgin who never knew a man. However, she was chaste all her life.
What is the difference between "chastity" and "batoulia"? And what does virginity mean?. Virginity is used not only to mean non marital state. It means also to be consecrated for God. In Arabic, another word is used to mean consecration to God: Batoulia.
Nowadays, when using the term “batoulia” people relate it to monks; he is a batoul meaning he never got married. This is incorrect. The only reason for Mariam being called a “Virgin” (batoul) is that the Spirit of God came upon her, and dwelt in her, so she became herself the house (Bethel) of God. The word “Batoul”, in ancient speech, is composed from two words: house of  Eil, i.e.  house of God. For he, or she, in whom God dwells, and becomes the house of God, is called “Batoul”.
Before the Holy Spirit of God dwelt in Mariam, she was not “Batoul”, she was chaste and  virgin. After the Spirit of God dwelt in her, and she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit without knowing a man, from this very moment onwards we started calling her the Chaste Batoul Virgin Mother of God. Hence, the one she conceived in her womb is the Son of God.
For this reason, when we want to address the Mother of God or speak about her, in church,  we don’t call her the “Virgin”, nor the "Batoul". When we address her we call her “Mariam the Mother of God”.
For now, I would just like to tackle the subject of purity. The first and foremost grant offered by Mariam who became the Mother of God, is her chastity. Therefore, chastity has an important significance in this feast, the Nativity of our Lord. If Mariam hadn’t been chaste, God wouldn’t have needed her, and He wouldn’t have chosen her to be His mother.
What does this mean to us?. It means that the most important battle everyone has to wage, in his life, on a personal level, if he intends to participate with  the Mother of God in celebrating the feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus, is to lead the ultimate battle of chastity.  No chastity?... Therefore, no virtues!. It is impossible for one to own a virtue if he doesn’t fight for chastity, since all virtues get rotten in the absence of chastity. Chastity is what protects, and brings forth all the virtues known in the human life.
 The reason I am stressing on the subject of chastity, is that our time has become par excellence a time filled up to the brim with naturalized adultery and lust.
I would like to tell you the following story. Today we commemorate the feast of Saint Nicolas, who was a soldier. Why do we celebrate his feast? you will find out the reason once you hear his story. We celebrate his memory today, because of the significant liaison it has with the Nativity of  the Lord Jesus Christ, in the flesh, from the Chaste, Virgin, and Batoul  Mariam Mother of God.
Nicolas was a soldier in the Byzantine army, most probably around the ninth century. He was given an order to go and join his troops on the battlefront in the internecine war between the Byzantines and the Bulgarians. The Bulgarians were pagans, at that time, before embracing Christianity, and in a state of conflict and war with the Byzantines.
Nicolas set off to the battlefield. As evening fell, he went into an inn to spend the night planning to continue his way the next day in daylight. He needed to have some food, so he sat at a table and he was served. The daughter of the inn’s owner noticed him, and liked him. She approached him, and sat at his table trying to seduce him, but he resisted her, and refused to make any shameful act with her that doesn’t please God, in other words, he refused to give up the chastity of his body. At night, he saw in his dream, a land full of corpses, and someone leading him and showing him around until they reached an empty spot surrounded by corpses. The person ushering him asked: Do you know who should have been laid in this empty space?... You!”, Nicolas woke up at that instant and little did he understand then. He got himself ready and joined the other soldiers. The fight took place, and ended with the complete extermination of the Byzantine army. All byzantine soldiers were killed, except one soldier: Nicolas, who preserved himself chaste that night, when he passed by that inn, and refused to give up his chastity to the owner’s daughter.
The church fixed the feast of this man, precisely on this day: the 24th of December.
What we need to understand here is that those of us who want to participate in spirit and truth in this glorious feast have to prepare themselves to take up chastity, and this is not only applicable  yesterday, or last week, or last year, or 10 years ago, but NOW!!!... Every one of us is able to repent before God, and start on the path of chastity, truthfully and with loyalty, right now, at this very moment. If anyone decides at any instant to live in chastity of heart and body, then the Lord God shall grant him repentance, and thus he will have himself prepared to meet the Coming One, and would enter into the joy of Light…

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!...