An inquirer asked me this week why our liturgical year begins with a feast for Mary and not Christ. It makes sense that our liturgical calendar begins with her because we refer to Mary as the beginning of our salvation. But she is the beginning of our salvation not because she saved us. The entire calendar of feasts and fasts is this great arc of the old promises and prophesies coming true in the New Covenant. Mary is part of those promises and prophesies.
She said, “yes” to God and so began, in the most concrete way, the incarnation. We look to Mary as the example par excellence of what we are called to be. She gave birth to God the Word in her life and we are called to do the same. The calendar begins with her birth because her being born leads to the One who would be born of her. According to the ancient tradition of the Church, the Theotokos was born of barren and aged parents, Joachim and Anna, about the year 16 or 17 before the birth of Christ. Joachim was descended from the royal line of David, of the tribe of Judah. Anna was of the priestly tribe of Levi, a daughter of the priest Matthan and Mary, his wife.
Your birth, O Theotokos, brought joy to the whole world, for from you dawned the sun of righteousness, Christ our God. Freeing us from the curse, He gave us His blessings. Abolishing death, He granted us eternal life. Apolytikion
In your holy birth, Immaculate One, Joachim and Anna were rid of the shame of childlessness; Adam and Eve of the corruption of death. And so your people, free of the guilt of their sins, celebrate crying: “The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, who nourishes our life.” Kontakion