Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17)
Today the Church festively celebrates the Nativity of the Theotokos. The Virgin Mary is at the center of the mystery of salvation that was revealed in Jesus Christ. What is clear in the incarnational feasts is that God is much closer to humans than is sometimes imagined. God is able to cross the line that separates divinity from humanity and to share the divine life with us humans. That was God’s plan from the beginning and that is God’s salvation for humanity. The above quote from Genesis 28 (one of the vesperal Old Testament readings for the Feast) connects us to this sense of mystery – the close connection between divinity and humanity which we encounter and experience in unexpected ways. Jacob is awed by what he experiences, and his experience is viewed as a prototype of the incarnation of God in the Theotokos.
St Andrew of Crete, speaking about the conception of Mary in Anna, writes regarding the mystery of the union of God with His creation which is our salvation:
Today that [human] nature, which was first brought forth from the earth, receives divinity for the first time; the dust, having been raised up, hastens with festive tread toward the higher peak of glory. Today, from us and for us, Adam offers Mary to God as first fruits, and, with the unpoisoned parts of the muddy dough, is formed of bread for the rebuilding of the human race. . . .
Today, pure human nature receives from God the gift of the original creation and reverts to its original purity. By giving our inherited splendor, which had been hidden by the deformity of vice, to the Mother of him who is beautiful, human nature receives a magnificent and most divine renovation, which becomes a complete restoration. The restoration, in turn, becomes deification, and this becomes a new formation, like its pristine state. (MARY AND THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, pp 394-395)