Encounter between God and Mary

March 25: Feast of the Annunciation

AnnunciatonAs we celebrate this great feast of the Annunciation (March 25, cf. Luke 1: 26-38) we are allowed to be privileged observers of an encounter.   We can look into one of the most extraordinary and dramatic moments in all human history, carefully recorded for our benefit.   It is an encounter between God and Mary.   Of course God, who has countless angels to wait upon him and do his bidding, could send a messenger - the archangel Gabriel.   Mary, who describes herself in humble terms, must speak for herself.

God is all powerful, great and almighty.   He made all things by his Word, and sustains all things by his mighty arm.   Yet just for a moment he waits upon the answer of the Virgin.   Though he rules all things, he is no tyrant.   He asks for the assent and the cooperation of one of his creatures.   And for just a moment, all God’s plans and designs for our salvation hinge upon her response.  She is simple, poor, and describes herself as of ‘low estate’.   But for just a moment she has it within her provenance to either allow or forbid God’s great design.  The whole plan for our salvation depends upon her decision!

We can marvel that our God respects her so much, that he becomes subject to her word.  His respect was well placed, and she did not disappoint him or us.  His Word became her child, and we have been saved thereby.  The humble handmaid has been exalted, and we count ourselves among the generations that call her ‘blessed’.

As observers of such a sacred moment in history, we could focus on the great generosity of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.   Her affirmation of God’s plan of salvation came at a great personal cost, and showed the depth of the trust she had in God.  ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’   God regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, and she was exalted.

We might consider ourselves, the observers at this Mystery, the Annunciation.  This is a story about God and Mary, but it is our story, too.   Its light also reveals something of our own relationship with God.   Though he is all powerful and can do all things, he waits upon us.   He neither imposes his grace upon us, nor does he bless us against our wishes.   He acts in a way that respects our dignity, honoring the persons we are.   We are free, and it is our right to exercise that freedom either giving assent to his plans which are for our good and for our salvation, or denying him and his will for us.  For a moment, the Almighty grants us the power even to reject him, and in our arrogance we can be scattered in the proud imagination of our hearts.

Mary responded with courage and faith.  On this feast of the Annunciation, let us ask her to help us.   May she be our Mother also, instructing us as a mother would, in the ways of courage and faith!  For those who willingly accept to cultivate the servant’s heart and who place their full trust in God; discover that they also have spirits that magnify the Lord, and find joy in God their Savior: God’s plan is ‘in remembrance of his mercy’.   But for just a moment, he waits upon us, while we choose and speak for ourselves.  Though it is always a factor of God’s great generosity and power, in a wonderful moment of grace, his plan also gives place to our decision.

Written by a Byzantine Catholic Hieromonk.


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Teachings of Christ

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)


Great and Holy Week

Saturday of Saint Lazarus the Righteous
- Hebrews 12:28-13:8, John 11:1-45

Palm Sunday - The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem
- Vespers: Exodus 3:1-8, Proverbs 8:22-30 (Annunciation) Genesis 49:1,2,8-12, Zephaniah 3:14-19, Zechariah 9:9-15 (Palm Sunday)
- Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56 (Annunciation) Matthew 21:1-11,15-17 (Palm Sunday)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 1:24-38 (Annunciation) Philippians 4:4-9, John 12:1-18 (Palm Sunday)

Great and Holy Monday
- Matins: Matthew 21:18-43
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 1:1-20
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 1:1-20, Job 1:1-12, Matthew 24:3-35

Great and Holy Tuesday
- Matins: Matthew 22:15-23:39
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 1:21-2:1
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 2:5-10, Job 1:13-22, Matthew 24:36-26:2

Great and Holy Wednesday
- Matins: John 12:17-50
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 2:3-3:3
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 2:11-22, Job 2:1-10, Matthew 26:6-16

On Great and Holy Wednesday night it is customary to celebrate the Service of Holy Anointing. There are seven epistles and seven Gospels for this service. Those references are not given here.

Great and Holy Thursday
- Matins: Luke 22:1-39
- First Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-12:5,9-11,14,15
- Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: Exodus 19:10-19, Job 38:1-23; 42:1-5, Isaiah 50:4-11, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke, 22:43-45; Matthew 26:40-27:2 (Composite Reading)

Holy Friday (Thursday Evening)
- Matins - The Twelve Passion Gospels: 1) John 13:31-18:1, 2) John 18:1-28, 3) Matthew 26:57-75, 4) John 18:28-19:16, 5) Matthew 27:3-32, 6) Mark 15:16-32, 7) Matthew 27:33-54, 8) Luke 23:32-49, 9) John 19:25-37, 10) Mark 15:43-47, 11) John 19:38-42, 12) Matthew 27:62-66

Great and Holy Friday
- First Royal Hour: Zechariah 11:10-13, Galatians 6:14-18, Matthew 27:1-56
- Third Royal Hour: Isaiah 50:4-11, Romans 5:6-11, Mark 15:16-41
- Sixth Royal Hour: Isaiah 52:13-54:1, Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 23:32-49
- Ninth Royal Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:15,9-11,14,15, Hebrews 10:19-31, John 18:28-19:37
- Vespers: Exodus 33:11-23, Job 42:12-16, Isaiah 52:13-54:1, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2, Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; Matthew 27:55-61 (Composite Reading)

Great and Holy Saturday
- Matins: Ezekiel 37:1-14, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 3:13,14 (Composite Reading), Matthew 27:62-66
- Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: 1) Genesis 1:1-13, 2) Isaiah 60:1-16, 3) Exodus 12:1-11, 4) The Book of Jonah, 5) Joshua 5:10-15, 6) Exodus 13:20-15:19, 7) Zephaniah 3:8-15, 8) 1 Kings 17:8-24, 9) Isaiah 61:10-62:5, 10) Genesis 22:1-18, 11) Isaiah 61:1-9, 12) 2 Kings 4:8-37, 13) Isaiah 63:11-64:5, 14) Jeremiah 31:31-34, 15) Daniel 3:1-90, Romans 6:3-11, Matthew 28:1-20

Feasts & Fasts

24-31 - Great and Holy Week
24 - Lazarus Saturday
25 - Annunciation to the the Mother of God, Palm Sunday
26 - Great and Holy Monday
27 - Great and Holy Tuesday
28 - Great and Holy Wednesday
29 - Great and Holy Thursday
30 - Great and Holy Friday
31 - Great and Holy Saturday

1 - Pascha - Feast of the Resurrection of Christ (Easter Sunday)
1-8 - Bright Week
8 - Second Sunday of Pascha (Apostle Thomas)
15 - Third Sunday of Pascha (Myrrh-Bearing Women)
22 - Fourth Sunday of Pascha (Healing of the Paralytic)
25 - Mid-Pentecost
29 - Fifth Sunday of Pascha (Samaritan Women at the Well)

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)


Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, * and the revelation of an eternal mystery: * The Son of God becomes the Son of a Virgin, * and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. * Therefore, let us also cry with him to the Mother of God: * "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

To you, O Mother of God, our leader and defender, * we, your servants, delivered from calamity, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. * So you, who have invincible might, * set us free from every peril * that we may cry to you: * "Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!" (Kontakion, Tone 8)

Random Proverb

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

We should zealously cultivate watchfulness, my brethren; and when, our mind purified in Christ Jesus, we are exalted by the vision it confers, we should review our sins and our former life, so that shattered and humbled at the thought of them we may never lose the help of Jesus Christ our God in the invisible battle.

St. Hesychius the Presbyter