Monday, March 23, 2015


The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. The Greek and Slavonic names for the Feast may be translated as “good tidings.” This, of course, refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation He brings. The background of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of St. Luke (1:26-38). The troparion describes this as the “beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the eternal mystery,” for on this day the Son of God became the Son of Man. There are two main components to the Annunciation: the message itself, and the response of the Virgin. The message fulfills God’s promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” The Fathers of the Church understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. The prophets hinted at His coming, but the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed that the promise is about to be fulfilled.
We see this echoed in the Liturgy of St. Basil, as well: “When man disobeyed Thee, the only true God who had created him, and was deceived by the guile of the serpent, becoming subject to death by his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself.”
The Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth in Galilee. There he spoke to the undefiled Virgin who was betrothed to St. Joseph: “Hail, thou who art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
In contrast to Eve, who was readily deceived by the serpent, the Virgin did not immediately accept the Angel’s message. In her humility, she did not think she was deserving of such words, but was actually troubled by them. The fact that she asked for an explanation reveals her sobriety and prudence. She did not disbelieve the words of the angel, but could not understand how they would be fulfilled, for they spoke of something, which was beyond nature. “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). “And the angel answered and said unto her, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: therefore also that which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 35-38).
The icon of the Feast shows the Archangel with a staff in his left hand, indicating his role as a messenger. Sometimes one wing is upraised, as if to show his swift descent from heaven. His right hand is stretched toward the holy Virgin as he delivers his message.
The Virgin is depicted either standing or sitting, usually holding yarn in her left hand. Sometimes she is shown holding a scroll. Her right hand may be raised to indicate her surprise at the message she is hearing. Her head is bowed, showing her consent and obedience. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon her is depicted by a ray of light issuing from a small sphere at the top of the icon, which symbolizes heaven. In a famous icon from Sinai, a white dove is shown in the ray of light.

Gabriel stood in your presence, O holy Virgin, and revealed the eternal plan to you. He greeted you and announced: Rejoice, O earth that has not been sown! Rejoice, O burning bush that was not consumed! Rejoice, O unsearchable depth! Rejoice, O bridge which leads to heaven; O high ladder which Jacob saw! Rejoice, O vessel of divine manna! Rejoice, O invocation of Adam!
The Lord is with you.
The blameless Maiden said to the captain of the heavenly hosts: You appear to me as a mortal, and your words go beyond human thought. You have said that God is with me, and that He shall take up abode in my womb. Tell me then, how am I to become a holy temple for the Infinite One, the Lord Who rides on the Cherubim? Do not mislead me with deceit, for I have known no pleasure and have not approached wedlock. Therefore, how shall I give birth to a child?
The archangel then said to her: Whenever God wills, the order of nature is overcome, and that which is beyond human power is accomplished. Therefore, O most pure and everlasting One, believe my true words. She then cried out, saying: Let it now be done to according to your word, and I will give birth to the One Who is without flesh. He will take flesh from me, so that by the union He may raise the human race to the original dignity, for He alone is all-powerful.
The archangel Gabriel was sent from heaven to bring to the Virgin glad tidings of her conception. When he came to Nazareth, he marveled at the miracle and thought to himself: How is it that He Whom the heavens cannot comprehend is now being born of a virgin? The One Who has heaven for a throne and earth for a footstool is being enclosed within a virgin’s womb. He, upon whom the six-winged Seraphim and the many-eyed Cherubim cannot gaze, wills to become incarnate of her by a single word. The Word of God is at hand. Then why do I stand by and not say to the Virgin: Rejoice, O Full of Grace; the Lord is with you! Rejoice, O pure Virgin and Maiden Bride! Rejoice, O Mother of the Life! Blessed is the fruit of your

Today there come glad tidings of joy: it is the feast of the Virgin. Things below are joined to things above. Adam is renewed, Eve set free from her ancient sorrow; and the Tabernacle of the human nature which the Lord took upon Himself, making divine the substance He assumed, is consecrated as a Temple of God! O mystery! The manner of emptying is unknown, the fashion of His conceiving is ineffable. n angel ministers at the wonder; a virgin womb receives the Son. The Holy Spirit is sent down; the Father on high gives His consent; and so the covenant is brought to pass by common counsel. In Him and through Him are we saved, and together with Gabriel let us cry aloud to the Virgin: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace: the Lord is with you. From you have Christ our God and our Salvation taken human nature, rising it up to Himself. Pray to Him that our souls may be saved.”

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