Deisis (Novogorod)

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.


Teachings of Christ

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

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)

Annunciation

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

"The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin." (Proverbs 10:10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Long ago, the wily one cast his weapon and wounded Adam and killed him; Indeed, he completely destroyed the weak man. But now, even if he struck the bodies of the noble men, he did not destroy their spirits. He persuaded the first-created man to fall by words, but not even by deeds, the noble ones. Bewitching the former, he made promises; he made offers to the latter: For Adam, the making of a god; for the martyrs, honor. He offers what he does not have; he suggests bestowing things not in his authority. Therefore, saints, having shattered his scheme, You gained crowns. 

Kontakia of Romanos, On the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I.