|Homily for the Annunciation|
Homily on the Annunciation
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
Today, we celebrate the beginning of our salvation. Today, we celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for as we all know March 25th is exactly 9 months before December 25th in which we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord in the Flesh. . . . but today we celebrate the beginning of that Incarnation, for it is at the Annunciation that the life of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Logos of God begins. However, this feast is also a feast of the Mother of God. You cannot have the Incarnation without the Theotokos. When you think of Mary the Theotokos, you must think of Christ, for it is from Christ that she receives Grace and her worth. Metropolitan Hierotheos points out that the mark of a true saint, a member of the body of Christ, is that he love the Panagia, the All-holy one who is the mother of our Lord. “it is impossible for there to be a saint who does not love her.” This is because you cannot separate Christ from His mother. Every human being has had a mother and the Incarnate Logos is no exception.
The love that the Church has for the Panagia is evident in the great service known as the Akathist Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos, also known as the Salutations. In the Byzantine Tradition the Salutations are sung every Friday of Great Lent. In the Slavic Tradition we sing them on Friday Evening during the fifth week of Great Lent. In the Salutations we can learn of the intimate link between Christ, our salvation and His mother, the Theotokos. Let us look at the First Oikos or Troparion of the Hymn and the verses that follow it. In these verses and the hymn we will hear the meaning of the Annunciation:
An Angel, and the Chief among them, was sent from Heaven to cry: Rejoice! to the Mother of God. And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he stood in awe, and with his bodiless voice he cried aloud to her such things as these:
--Rejoice, thou through whom joy shall shine forth.
Christ the Lord is our hope and our joy. When He was about to be given up to die for us He said, “A woman when she is in labor has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world (John 16:21).” Christ was speaking of the sorrow the disciples would have when he would die and be gone for the three days, using the image of being in the womb while in the tomb. He adds, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (John 16:22) It is because of the Theotokos and her assent to the will of God that this eternal joy is given to us.
--Rejoice, thou through whom the curse shall be blotted out.
--Rejoice, thou the Restoration of the Fallen Adam. Rejoice, thou the redemption of the tears of Eve.
It is at the Annunciation that human nature and the divine nature is joined together. It has been said that this was, in a sense, a Pentecost for the Panagia. She was deified completely and received the Holy Spirit completely here at the Annunciation. So that she was able to bear the Godman, Jesus Christ, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was full of grace. She was the first one that Christ restored of all of Adam’s children. She became by God’s grace what Adam and Eve were meant to be. She redeems the tears of Eve by giving birth to the Godman without pain. Just as the consequence of Eve’s sin was to bear children in pain, the Theotokos bore the Incarnate Lord and gave birth to Him without pain.
--Rejoice, Height hard to climb for human thought.
But this is a mystery that is very hard for us to even fathom. We cannot even rightly conceive of God in our mind. . . how can we begin to understand His conception in the flesh. How can we understand God taking flesh? Some things are best marveled at in silence.
--Rejoice, Depth hard to explore, even for the eyes of the Angels.
Even the angels, the bodiless ones could not understand this. They who could not bear to look directly at the Lord, they who were a secondary light reflecting the light of Divinity, could see that the Lord was to be born of a woman, was going to become one of His creation.
--Rejoice, for thou art the Throne of the King.
--Rejoice, for thou sustainest the Sustainer of all.
The Lord took on our weaknesses for us, He took on a full humanity and hungered and thirsted just as we do. He knows our needs from the inside. He knows our natural fears and needs. He has had a mother who nurtured Him as a little babe. He who holds the universe together by His will, and by His love, was once sustained by mother’s milk and was held in the loving arms of His mother. Even more, he was sustained within the womb for 9 months as he grew. He received the blood of the Theotokos within Himself and He also imparted His blood to Mary. She was the first to commune with the Lord as He grew within her.
Christ knows our fears and our hunger and our weakness and vulnerability. He was in a womb, he was a child, but He also knows what it is to have a mother who loves Him and protected Him as a babe in the womb and as a child.
--Rejoice, Star that causest the Sun to appear.
From our perspective, a star shines within the field of a multitude of other stars and when the Sun appears in the sky, the stars become invisible. So it is with us. We are each of us one of a multitude of people on the earth. We disappear in comparison to the light of God, and yet one of us, the Theotokos, a bright star, brings forth that Sun, who is the Sun of Righteousness. Somehow the order of nature is seemingly overturned. A star brings the Sun, the lesser light brings forth the greater.
--Rejoice, Womb of the divine Incarnation.
--Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed.
--Rejoice, thou through whom the Creator becometh a babe.
By a simple act of love, love of God, the Theotokos, a young girl, allowed God to be conceived in her womb. The divine and the human are united in her and our nature is created anew.
--Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded.
2007 Fr. Philip Kontos