Anno Domini (4 B.C.)

Latin for the “year of our Lord”

The Incarnation of Christ (the Holy conception of Christ) and the subsequent birth of Christ (the Nativity of Christ), a.k.a. “the year of our Lord”.  For various reasons most historians (including the Patristic Fathers and conservative Christian historians) generally deduce that Christ’s birth day occurred sometime between 7 B.C. and 1 B.C.; generally in 4 or 3 B.C. (which is Eusebius’ date; see Eusebius of Caesarea). Matthew’s gospel states that Jesus’ birth occurred during “the days of Herod the King” (Matthew 2:1).  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., so presumably the Nativity (birth) of Jesus Christ occurred in 4 B.C.

Icon of Mary and Jesus, the Theotokos (the Mother of God)

The Virgin Mary was delivered of the child Jesus (the Christ) while staying in a stable in the town of Bethlehem around the year 4 B.C.  He was circumcised on the 8th day of his life and he was presented at the temple in Jerusalem on the 40th day of his life, where Mary & Joseph presented the required sacrifices for a first born (see the Gospel of Luke).

Simeon takes Jesus in his arm and utters the “Song of Simeon”:

Icon of Simeon at the presentation of Christ at the Temple

Simeon (the God-receiver) the “just and devout” man of Jerusalem met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they entered the Temple.   Simeon had been visited by the Holy Spirit who told him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ; God’s Holy Messiah that was promised of old.  On taking Jesus into his arms Simeon uttered a prayer, (the Nunc dimittis, a.k.a., the Song of Simeon, Luke 2:29-32), and he gave a prophecy alluding to the crucifixion (Luke 2:25–35):

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

By the conclusion of the 4th Ecumenical Council (held at Chalcedon, just across the Bosporus Straight from Constantinople, in A.D. 451) the incarnation of Christ was understood to be:

“Christ is the eternal Son of God made known in two natures without confusion (i.e. without the two natures somehow combining), without change, without division, without separation, the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one prosopon [person] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two prosopa [persons, i.e. two hypostases], but one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Flight into Egypt by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1923)

After Jesus was presented at the temple (and revealed by Simeon as the Christ), Joseph and Mary then fled Jerusalem and travel to Egypt (to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents) and they later returned to their home town of Nazareth, in the province of Galilee (about 100 miles north of Jerusalem), where Jesus was raised, and where he learned the carpentry trade.

Note on the Common “MP OY” Abbreviation on Icons of the Virgin Mary:

Note that ΜΡ ΘΥ is an ancient and standard abbreviation of the name of “Mother of God”. When Mother of God is written in Greek it is: Μήτηρ (του) Θεοῦ . If one takes the first and last letters of Μήτηρ (του) (“Mother of”) and Θεο (“God”) one is left with ΜΡ ΘΥ: a line (“titlo”) is often placed over each pair of letters to indicate that it is an abbreviated sacred name.

Meaning of the Term Theotokos:

Theotokos literally means the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 decreed that Mary is the Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one divine person with two natures (divine and human) intimately and hypostatically united.

Note on the A.D. – B.C. Dating System:

The B.C./A.D. system of indexing dates was devised in A.D. 525 by Dionysius Exiguus, (which, BTW, has NO year number zero). Dionysius did not like indexing dates by the Regnal Year of particular Roman Emperors. He felt the birth of Christ should be the index year of all human history, and he made his “best guess” about the actual year of Christ’s birth. His guess missed the actual historical date by about 4 years. The A.D./B.C system has been maintained with the index point Dionysius choose ever since.