Every year on 9 December we commemorate the Conception of Saint Mary by Anna.
St. Mary is known in the Armenian Church as Asdvadzamayr-Asdvadzadzin, the “Mother of God” and the “Bearer of God” a position doctrinally established at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the 5th century.
Her life of holiness and purity, and her graceful acceptance of the role to which God called her, as the mother of Jesus Christ, all make Mary one of the pre-eminent exemplars of the Christian faith, whose birth and very conception are occasions for celebration in the church.
Only those aspects of St. Mary’s life, which are directly related to Christ are recorded in the Gospel. The remainder of her biography is attributed to tradition, which is found in ancient ecclesiastical literature.
In all likelihood, Mary was born in Bethlehem or Nazareth, some 20 years before Christ’s nativity. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, were a devout couple whose earnest prayers for a child were answered with the birth of a daughter.
Although Mary was born naturally, she is considered morally pure and immaculate. It is for this reason that the church celebrates not only her birth, but also her conception, which the Armenian and the Greek Orthodox churches observe on December 9, and the Roman Catholic Church celebrates on December 8.
The concept of Mary’s moral purity later developed into the question of her Immaculate Conception (from Anna), a doctrine adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1854. The Armenian Church, however, does not accept this, as only Christ was immaculately conceived.
However, Mary’s purity is unquestioned. According to the teachings of the Armenian Church, at the time of the Annunciation, when the Holy Spirit entered Mary, she was cleansed of all original sin, as she was to be the vessel in which God manifest was to be incarnated.
According to tradition, following the Ascension of Christ, Mary lived out the rest of her days in Jerusalem, cared for by St. John the Evangelist. She died in Jerusalem some 15 years after Christ’s Ascension and was buried in her family tomb in Gethsemane