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

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (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.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky