In these days of Lent the feast of the Annunciation brings us a welcome rest, so that we, tired by fasting, may be revived by spiritual joy, so that saddened by our failure to come into full repentance, we may be encouraged by the announcement of Him Who takes away all sins and sorrows. A good word, a joyful word, the glad news of our salvation which Gabriel sent by God announced to Mary today. Gabriel, the Archangel of God, brought to Mary the joyful word concerning the Incarnation of the Word. It promises her a Son: it promises the guilty forgiveness, prisoners redemption, captives freedom. Who is not gladdened by that answer? Who is not encouraged by this news?
Today is joy's good news, the feast of the Virgin. Earth is joined with
Adam is made new. Eve is set free from earliest sadness. For our nature's tent
made God-like by Christ Who took on Himself our human clay is made God's
own (third Holy) Temple.
And so we sung about this day:
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The manifestation of the eternal Mystery.
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
Gabriel announces good news of grace,
With him, let us also cry out to the Mother of God:
Rejoice, you who are full of grace!
The Lord is with you -
and because of you, also with us.
Glory, the Lord of All dwelt in you,
Glory, the Lord of All proceeded from your womb,
Glory, the Lord of All freed us through your Birth-giving!
Blessed, joyful announcement! God is to be born of the Virgin as a man, as one of His own creatures. And thereby, united with Christ, the whole of humankind is created anew in God's image and likeness.
Who would not rejoice over that?
We honor the Holy Mother of God not only because God chose her, but also because she, herself, chose aright in her freedom, consciously accepted the Will of God and thereby presents the model for every Christian. There is mutual consent, free agreement, a voluntary yes between God and his creature. For the Incarnation is not only an act of God's Will, but also of the free will and faith of the Holy Virgin Mary. Her consent: not a passive acceptance (as some might mischaracterize), but an active surrender of herself to God's Will, a voluntary and independent participation of the Panaghia (Mother of God), and in her, of all creatures, in our salvation. On this feast, Orthodoxy commemorates not only God's initiative; it also commemorates the human response whereby Mary freely accepted her vocation. Mary's answer to the Archangel Gabriel was not a forgone conclusion. She could have said NO; she was not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a free and positive part to play in God's plan of salvation. So are we. Listen to how beautifully St. Bernard describes this decisive moment:
"The whole world waits for Mary's answer. You've heard you shall conceive and bear a Son; You've heard you shall conceive, not by man, but by the Holy Spirit! The (arch) angel is waiting for your answer; It is time for Gabriel to return to God who sent him. We, too, are waiting, Panaghia, for the word of pity, even we who are overwhelmed in wretchedness by the sentence of condemnation...Look, to you the price of our salvation is offered. If you consent, immediately we shall be set free. We were all made in the eternal Word of God, and look! We die; by one little word of yours, in answer, we shall all be made alive...Adam (and Eve) ask this from you, loving Panaghia, poor Adam (and Eve), exiled from Paradise with all his poor wretched children; Abraham begs this of you, and David, (so he does as well); all the holy fathers (and holy mothers) implore this, even your parents who themselves dwell in the valley of the shadow of death; this is the moment the whole world is waiting for, kneeling at your feet (in rapt attention for your answer). And rightly so, for on your YES hangs the consolation of the wretched, the liberation of the captive and prisoner, the speedy rescue of all who are lost (that's all of us!); the salvation of all of Adam and Eve's children, of all your brothers and sisters; US; all of humankind on the Earth!
Answer, Panaghia, answer the archangel speedily; through him answer your Lord. Speak the word and receive the Divine Word Himself; offer what is yours and conceive what is of God; give what is temporal, and embrace what is eternal. Why delay? Believe, speak, receive! Let your humanity put on boldness, and your modesty be clothed with trust. Modesty that is silent is pleasing, but more needful NOW is the BOLDNESS of your YES. Open your heart to faith; open your lips to speak; open your heart to your Maker. The desire of all nations is outside knocking at your door. Don't delay, don't let him pass by: Arise, run by faith.
And Mary said: "Behold the servant of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." Behold the servant of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word. Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow says of the importance of these words: "In the days of the creation of the world, God spoke His mighty, "Let there be...", God's Word brought creatures into this world. But on this day, unexampled in the life of this world, when Mary utters her brief and obedient 'So be it', I hardly dare to say what happened then - the word of the Creature brought the Creator down into the world" (Editor's note: ...in the grandest act of Agape ever witnessed in the history of the world in complete synergy of Creator-Creature; all for the sake of the redemption of the lost peoples of this world.)
Glory be to God in the Highest as we esteem Mary - Mother of God - with great dignity and honor.
Typed into this web page by Petros Theodoros Presbeftes on March 31, 2007, Lazarus Saturday.
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