“Nature has been defeated by grace and stands trembling, no longer ready to take the lead”

But why has the Virgin Mother been born from a sterile woman? For that which alone is new under the sun, the culmination of miracles, the way had to be prepared by means of mira­cles, and what was greater had to advance slowly from what was more humble. And I have another more exalted and divine reason. Nature has been defeated by grace and stands trembling, no longer ready to take the lead. Therefore when the God-bearing Virgin was about to be born from Anna, nature did not dare to anticipate the offshoot of grace; instead it remained without fruit until grace sprouted its fruit. For it was necessary for her to be the first-born, she who would bear the “Firstborn of all creation” in whom “all things subsist” (Col 1.15,17).

O blessed couple, Joachim and Anna, all nature is indebted to you! For through you it has offered a gift to the Creator which is more excellent than all other gifts: a holy mother who alone is worthy of the Creator. O most all-blessed loins of Joachim, from which a wholly unblemished seed was sent forth! O renowned womb of Anna, in which slowly, with additions from her, an all-holy infant grew, and once it had taken shape, was born! O belly that contained within itself a living heaven, vaster than the immensity of the heavens! O threshing floor which contained the heap of life-giving grain, since Christ himself declared: “Unless a grain of wheat which falls into the earth dies, it remains just a single grain …” (John 12.24). O breasts that suckled her who fed the Feeder of the world! O marvel of marvels and miracle of miracles!

For it was necessary that the ineffable and condescending incarnation of God should be prepared by means of miracles. But how shall I advance further? My understanding is confounded, while fear and longing have divided me. My heart quakes and my tongue has been paralyzed. I cannot bear my happiness! I am overcome by miracles! I am possessed by longing! Let longing be overcome! Let fear be banished! Let the harp of the Spirit sing, “Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth exult!” (Ps 95[96].11).

St John of Damascus


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1 Response to “Nature has been defeated by grace and stands trembling, no longer ready to take the lead”

  1. Dale Crakes says:

    St John of course had his biology of conception backwards but that was what they thought up until much later.


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