Annunciation of the Theotokos
Today we celebrate the Annunciation of the Holy Theotokos, one of the twelve great feasts of the Church’s year. We hear of the message that the Archangel Gabriel brought to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Saviour of the world. And we also hear her response, namely, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ Despite being taken aback and overwhelmed at this great mystery, the Virgin Mary responds positively to God’s call, making our salvation possible.
In the Annunciation we see the intimate relationship between the Theotokos and her divine Son. For, in her, God’s careful work of preparation reaches its fulfillment. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, God had been preparing the way for the great event of salvation that would reverse the corruption that had entered into the world with Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The Virgin Mary was the grace-filled person whom the generations had been awaiting. She was the one who would give human nature to the Word of God.
But this feast is also the beginning of all of the feasts of the Lord, for it is the beginning of our salvation. The Church’s texts for this feast are full of wonder and amazement at the great mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. Through the obedience of the Mother of God, the uncontainable God, the One who rides upon the Cherubim, comes to dwell in the womb of the Virgin. He takes our nature on Himself in order to redeem us, to heal our brokenness and to lead us to the Father. Saint John of Damascus writes,
Through the invocation the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes a rainfall for this new cultivation. For just as all things whatsoever God made He made by the operation of the Holy Spirit, so also it is by the operation of the Spirit that these things are done which surpass nature and cannot be discerned except by faith alone. ‘How shall this be done to be,’ asked the blessed Virgin, ‘because I know not man?’ The archangel Gabriel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.’ And now you ask how the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine and water the Blood of Christ. And I tell you that the Holy Spirit comes down and works these things which are beyond description and understanding.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 1:24-38:
In those days, Elizabeth the wife of Zacharias conceived and for five months she hid herself, saying, “Thus the Lord had done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.” In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.