The first great feast of the Liturgical year celebrates the nativity of the Blessed Virgin. It is appropriate that, during these first days of the new year, we should be brought into the presence of the highest example of human holiness, that of the mother of Jesus Christ.
During vespers, several lessons from the Old Testament are read.
First there is the account of the night which Jacob spent at Guz (Gen 28: 117). While Jacob slept, with his head pillowed on stones, he had a dream: he saw a ladder reaching up from earth to heaven and angels ascending a descending along this ladder; and God himself appeared and promised that he would bless and keep Jacob's seed.
Mary, whose motherhood was the human condition necessary for the Incarnation, is, in herself, a ladder between heaven and earth. As the adoptive mother of the adopted brothers and sisters of her Son, she says to us what God said to Jacob, "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go." She, who carried her God in her womb, is truly that place, Beth-El, of which Jacob could say, "Surely this is the house of God, and this the gate of heaven."...
The final lesson (Prov. 9: 1-11) presents us with personified divine Wisdom: "Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars.... She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town."
The Byzantine and the Roman Catholic Church both have established a link between holy Wisdom and Mary. She is the house built by Wisdom: she is, to the highest degree, one of the virgins sent forth by Wisdom to men; she is, after Christ himself, the highest manifestation of Wisdom in this world.
Fr. Lev Gillet (writing as a Monk of the Eastern Church)
The Year of Grace of the Lord
St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54