This is an aspect that I love and have always loved about Orthodoxy. We can talk about theosis and the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity, about hypostaseis and prosopa, but “when the rubber hits the road” we also celebrate conceptions and we can loudly proclaim (in today’s Synaxarion)

On the ninth day, Anna became the grandmother of God, as she conceived the Mother of her King.

What an image–the Grandmother of God! How much more down to earth can one be? Today, on the 9th of December, we celebrate the fact that through the promise of God and through normal marital intercourse, the righteous couple, Joachim and Anna, were privileged to conceive the child who would become the Mother of God. It is truly one of those moments when the whole universe rushes together, when the cooperation of the divine and the human becomes almost painfully present. God loves us so deeply and so desires to live with us, to become one of us, that he has the moment planned from all eternity. At the same time, God loves us so deeply that he will not violate our human nature and peform some sort of “magic act” to take on human nature. Each step is planned; each step requires the full cooperation of the human actors. God and man working together for our salvation.

Today’s feast reminds us, as does the beautiful Gospel from the Sunday before Christmas from the first chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, that God has a human family, just like the rest of us. God has fully entered into our human experience. It’s ashame that his Grandmother and his Grandfather never knew him in the flesh. They raised such a wonderful daughter; they certainly would have been very proud of their Grandson!

On an interesting aside note: The Orthodox Church celebrates three feasts of conceptions. The most important, of course, is March 25, the Annunciation, the day that Mary conceived the Son of God in her womb. Exactly nine months later (December 25) we celebrate the birth of that Son. The other two conceptions are St. Anna’s conception of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth’s conception of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist. Interestingly, the birth feasts are not exactly nine months later. The Nativity of the Theotokos is on September 8, one day shy of the 9 months. The Conception of the Forerunner is celebrated on September 23, and his birth on June 24, one day more than the 9 months. This discrepency is to emphasize that only Christ is perfect, having a perfect 9 month gestation period. As holy as the Theotokos and John the Baptist were, they were not equal to our Lord in perfection, and so their dates are just off of the exact 9 month period.