My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
HYMNS OF THE FEAST
Apolitikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
Today marks the crowing of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from the trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"
FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY, THE THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY AND THE CELEBRATION OF GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY OF 1821
The Holy Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25th each year. The Feast commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.
The biblical story of the Feast of the Annunciation is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke (1:26-39). The Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, who was living in Nazareth, and said to her, "Hail (Rejoice), O favored one, the Lord is with you." Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of greeting this was.
The Angel told her not to be afraid, for she had found favor with God. He said, "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 forever; and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
Mary responded to the Angel by asking how this could happen since she had no husband. The Angel told her that the Holy Spirit and the power of God would come upon her, and that the Child to be born of her would be called Holy, the "Son of God."
The Angel then proceeded to tell the Virgin Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son in her old age (St. John the Baptist), and affirmed that with God nothing is impossible.
In faith and obedience to the will of God, Mary replied to the Angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be according to your word." Upon her response, the Angel departed.
It is on the Feast of the Annunciation, that Orthodox Christians commemorate both the Divine initiative of God, whereby He took on flesh from the Ever-Virgin Mary for our salvation, and the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation offered to her. He elected to become man, and He desired to do this with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. Mary could have refused, for she was not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a free and positive part to play in God's plan for our salvation. Thus, when on this and other feasts the Orthodox Church honors the Theotokos, the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose to follow His will.
When the Most Holy Virgin had lived and served in the Temple at Jerusalem for eleven years, and was by then fourteen years old--when, that is, she was entering on her fifteenth year--the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could no longer remain in the Temple but must be betrothed and marry. But, to the great surprise of all the priests, the Most Holy Virgin replied that she had dedicated herself to God and wished to a maiden remain till death and enter into wedlock with no-one. Then, by God's Providence and under His inspiration, Zacharias, the high priest, chose twelve unmarried men from the tribe of David so that they might entrust the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and care for her. She was thus entrusted to Joseph, an old man from Nazareth and a kinsman of hers. In his house, the Most Holy Virgin continued to live in the same manner as in the Temple of Solomon, passing her time in the reading of the Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in pondering on the works of God, in fasting and in handwork. She scarcely ever left her house, nor took an interest in worldly matters or events. She generally conversed very little with anyone, and never without a particular need. She was intimate only with the two daughters of Joseph. But when the time prophesied by the Prophet Daniel had come and when God was pleased to fulfill the promise made to Adam when He drove him out of Paradise, and to the Prophets, the mighty Archangel Gabriel appeared in the chamber of the Most Holy Virgin, at the precise moment (as some priestly writers have related) that she was holding open on her lap the book of the Prophet Isaiah and pondering on his great prophecy: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son." Gabriel appeared to her in Angelic Light and said to her: "Rejoice, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee!" and so forth, just as related in the Gospel of the divine Luke. With this Angelic greeting and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the salvation of mankind and the renewal of creation were set in motion. The Archangel turned the first page of the story of the New Testament with the word "Rejoice!" to show by this the joy that the New Testament signifies for mankind and for all things created. And therefore the Annunciation is looked upon as a joyous, as well as a great, feast. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)
DOGMAS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
Two dogmas concerning the Mother of God (Theotokos) are bound up, in closest fashion, with the dogma of God the Word's becoming man. They are (a) her Ever-virginity, and (b) her name of Theotokos (Mother of God). They proceed immediately from the dogma of the unity of the Hypostasis of the Lord from the moment of His Incarnation--the Divine Hypostasis.
A. The Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ from a Virgin is testified to directly and deliberately by two Evangelists, Matthew and Luke. This dogma was entered into the Symbol of Faith (The Creed) of the First Ecumenical Council, where we read: "Who for the sake of us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man." The Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God is testified by her own words, handed down in the Gospel, where she expressed awareness of the immeasurable majesty and height of her chosenness: "My soul doth magnify the Lord...For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed...For He that is Mighty hath done to me great things; and Holy is His Name" (St. Luke 1:46-49).
On the other hand, in the account of the journey to Jerusalem of the twelve-year old boy Jesus, where there is mention of the "kinsfolk and acquaintances" (Luke 2:44) in the midst of whom they were seeking Jesus, and where it is likewise mentioned that Mary and Joseph every year journeyed from faraway Galilee to Jerusalem, no reason is given to think that there were present other younger children with Mary: it was thus that the first twelve years of the Lord's earthly life proceeded.
When, about twenty years after the above-mentioned journey, Mary stood at the Cross of the Lord, she was "alone", and she was entrusted by her Divine Son to His disciple John; and "from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (St. John 19:27). Evidently, as the ancient Christians also understood it, the Evangelists speak either of "half" brothers and sisters or of cousins.
B. The Most Holy Virgin Mary Is Theotokos
With the dogma of the Son of God's becoming man is closely bound up the naming of the Most Holy Virgin Mary as Theotokos (Birth-giver of God). By this name the Church confirms its faith that God the Logos (Word) became Man truly and not merely in appearance; a faith that, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God was joined to Man from the very instant of His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and that He, being perfect Man, is also perfect God.
At the same time the name of Theotokos is the highest name that exalts or glorifies the Virgin Mary.
The name "Theotokos" has a direct foundation in Sacred Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes:
a) "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). Here is expressed the truth that a woman gave birth to the Son of God.
b) "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16) the flesh was woven for God the Logos (Word) by the Most Holy Virgin Mary.
At the meeting of the Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, with the righteous Elizabeth, "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she spake out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?...And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord" (Luke 1:41-45). Thus Elizabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary the Mother of the Lord, the God of Heaven; it is precisely the God of Heaven that she is here calling "Lord," as is clear from her further words: "She that believed... those things which were told her from the Lord"--the Lord God. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky)
(To be continued: Greek Independence Celebration)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God