The Annunciation…

Mikhail Nesterov's Annunciation 1911

“The Incarnation”, it has been rightly said, “was not only the work of the Father, of His Power and His Spirit: it was also the work of the will and the faith of the Virgin” (St. Nikolas Cabasilas). On the feast of the Annunciation, therefore, Orthodoxy commemorates not only the divine initiative, whereby God in His loving kindness took flesh from a Virgin; it commemorates also the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation set before her. God always respects human liberty; and so, when he elected to become man, he desired to do so with the willing agreement of her whom he chose as his mother. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”: Mary’s answer to the angel was not a foregone conclusion. She could have refused: she was not a passive instrument but an active participant, with a free and positive part to play in God’s scheme of salvation.

To make abundantly clear the voluntary character of her choice, the Canon for the Annunciation takes the form of a dialogue between the Virgin and Gabriel. Mary’s doubts are set forth with the utmost directness, we see all her incredulity and her embarrassment; and this is done in order to make clear that she acted in full freedom, consciously and deliberately accepting the will of God. When, on this and other feasts, the Orthodox Church shows honor to the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose God.

Today there come glad tidings of joy: it is the feast of the Virgin. Things below are joined to things above. Adam is renewed, and Eve set free from her ancient sorrow; and the Tabernacle of the human nature which the Lord took upon Himself, making divine the substance He assumed , is consecrated as a Temple of God. O mystery! The manner of His emptying is unknown, the fashion of His conceiving is ineffable. An angel ministers at the wonder; a virgin womb receives the Son. The Holy Spirit is sent down; the Father on high gives His consent; and so the covenant is brought to pass by common counsel. In Him and through Him are we saved, and together with Gabriel let us cry aloud unto the Virgin: “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee. From thee has Christ our God and our Salvation taken human nature, raising it up unto Himself. Pray to Him that our souls may be saved.”

hat tip~ Sunday Bulletin of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church

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