Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!
Today is the feast day of the Annunciation, one of the earliest Christian feasts, the celebration of which dates back to the 4th century, although a painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome dates from the 2nd 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 Old Testament prophets had hinted at His coming, which they saw dimly, but the Archangel Gabriel now proclaims the promise is about to be fulfilled.
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 for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
In contrast to Eve, who was readily deceived by the serpent, Mary 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 Elisabeth 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).”
In his Sermon 23 on the day of the Annunciation, St Philaret of Moscow boldly stated that “the word of the creature brought the Creator down into the world.” He explains that salvation is not merely an act of God’s will, but also involves the Virgin’s free will. She could have refused, but she accepted God’s will and chose to cooperate without complaint or further questions.
Thank you, Mary, Mother of God, for saying “Yes”!
See also “The Christmas Miracle: Scientific Evidence of the Virgin Birth,” Dec. 25, 2013.
H/t my dear friend John Molloy, Chairman of the National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition.