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.
THE HOLY AND GREAT FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE EVER-VIRGIN MARY THE THEOTOKOS
From the early times of Christianity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of Her great virtues, Her help to the needy, and Her preeminent role in God's plan for the salvation of mankind, held a distinct position of admiration and love among Christians.
The honoring of the Holy Virgin began from the time when the Archangel Gabriel greeted Her with the words: "Rejoice, O Blessed One, the Lord is with Thee! Blessed art Thou among women!" announcing to Her the mystery of the conception of the Son of God. A few days later with the words "Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb," the righteous Elizabeth saluted the pure Virgin. Saint Luke explains in his Gospel that the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that Mary had become the Mother of the Lord, the promised Savior of mankind (St. Luke 1:28-42).
The Orthodox Christian Church expresses toward the Blessed Virgin by the many feast days commemorating the various events in Her life. In prayer the Virgin Mary is called Theotokos, which in Greek means the Mother of God, since the One Who was born from Her was at the time of conception and always will be the True God.
Many Christian preachers and poets composed prayers, songs of praise (called Akathists) (from the Greek, meaning not-sitting) and inspirational sermons in honor of the Virgin Mary. With all this reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos, it is consoling and enlightening to learn how she lived, how she prepared herself, and how she blossomed to such a spiritual height as to become the receptacle for the Incarnate Logos/Word of God.
Several prophecies of the Old Testament foretold of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of the Blessed Woman who would become a tool for the salvation of mankind. The very first promise concerning the Redeemer, heard by our fallen ancestors Adam and Eve, contained a prophecy about a special Woman. God said to the devil: "I shall put enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and Her Seed" (Genesis 3:15). It should be noted that during the time of the Old Testament the progeny were always called the seed or descendent of a male parent. Only here is the Redeemer-to-Come referred to as the Seed of the Woman, and this was the first indication that He would have no human father. Many centuries afterward the prophet Isaiah added important details to this first prophecy of Genesis. He said that the Woman, Who will give birth to the Messiah-Emmanuel, will be a virgin. "God Himself shall give you a sign," explained the prophet Isaiah to the disbelieving descendants of King David,--"The Virgin shall accept into her womb and bear a Son, and shall name Him Emmanuel, which means: God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14). Even though the word "Virgin" did not seem right to the ancient Hebrews, since a birth without fail conjectured conjugal cohabitation, they did not dare to substitute another more "appropriate" word, for example, "woman." Another important message in the prophecy of Isaiah about the coming Messiah is that He will be God Himself. Hence the title Theotokos--"birth-giver of God"--given to the Virgin Mary by the ancient Church. (Source: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
HOMILY ON THE ANNUNCIATION TO THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY
by Saint Gregory the Wonderworker
Today are strains of praise sung joyfully by the Choir of Angels, and the Light of the advent of Christ shines brightly upon the faithful.
Today is the glad spring-time to us, and Christ the Sun of Righteousness has beamed with clear Light around us, and has illumined the minds of the faithful.
Today is Adam made anew, and moves in the Choir of Angels, having winged his way to heaven.
Today is the whole circle of the earth filled with joy, since the sojourn of the Holy Spirit has been realized to men.
Today the grace of God and the hope of the unseen shine through all wonders transcending imagination, and make the mystery that was kept hid from eternity plainly discernible to us.
Today are woven the chaplets of never-fading virtue.
Today, God, willing to crown the sacred heads of those whose pleasure is to hearken to Him, and who delight in His festivals, invites the lover of unswerving faith as His called and His heirs; and the heavenly Kingdom is urgent to summon those who mind celestial things to join the divine service of the incorporeal choirs.
Today is fulfilled the word of David, "Let the heaven rejoice, and let the earth be glad. The fields shall be joyful, and all the trees of the wood before the Lord, because He cometh." David thus made mention of the trees; and the Lord's forerunner also spoke of them as trees "that should bring forth fruits meet for repentance," or rather for the coming of the Lord. But our Lord Jesus Christ promises perpetual gladness to all those who believe on Him. For He says, "I will see you, and ye shall rejoice; and your joy no man taketh from you.
Today is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us.
Today did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation, "Hail, thou that art highly favored! And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the Angel immediately proceeded to say, The Lord is with thee: fear not, Mary; for thou has found favor with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the Angel, How shall this be, seeing I now not a man?" "Shall I still remain a virgin?" Is the honor of virginity not then lost by me? And while she was yet in perplexity as to these things, the Angel placed shortly before her the summary of his whole message, and said to the pure virgin, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." For what it is, that also shall it be called by all means.
Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Mary alone out of all generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations. She was not like the primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, unguarded hearkened to the word of the serpent, the author of al all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharging his poison and refusing death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of the Saints. But in the Holy Virgin alone is the fall of that (first mother) repaired..."
ON HOW THE THEOTOKOS TAUGHT THE CHURCH
By Saint Philaret of Moscow (1821-1867)
Although she, by the height or grace, presides invisibly and in spirit over the assembly of the Apostles,--by lowliness of heart, in the body she suffered not herself to be visibly the object of any glory, accepted no pre-eminence, and placed herself on the same rank with the other women, teaching them by her example, the same that the Apostle Paul taught them afterwards by his word: "Let your women keep silence in the churches."; "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach."
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