Feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Imitating the Theotokos : Following Christ
Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God
25 March, 2008
Hebrews 2:11-18 ; Luke 1:24-38

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

There is a saying that I remember from my childhood, and I think people still use this saying from time to time : “Still waters run deep”. This saying applies very much to the Mother of God, I believe, and by extension it really needs to apply to us, too. She is the image of the Church. She is the embodiment of the Church. She is the example for us of how to live the Christian life.

“Still waters run deep”. You do not see the Mother of God being so very vocal, so very visible in all the Gospels, or even in the time of the Acts of the Apostles. However, we know from secondary sources that she is always there. She is always present. Her way of being there is always peaceful, even when she is asking questions about what does the Lord mean about one thing or another. She is peaceful, and she is self-assured. She is loved and revered by all the apostles. She is loved by the people round about her. Ultimately, in the context of her ever-present humility, she is exalted above the highest ranks in Heaven. She is “beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim”. She is spoken of in our hymns now as a “General” over armies : armies of heavenly hosts. Her obedience, her love, exalted her to such an extent that she is above everything else (God is not a thing). This is exactly the embodiment of what the Lord is saying – “'there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last'” (Luke 13:30).

The world in which we live promotes us all the time, every day, in every environment, to do the opposite. We are exhorted: “push yourself into the front of everything” ; “ be a squeaky wheel” ; “get your own way” ; “make sure that you drive ahead, and get what you want out of life”. The Mother of God in her life did the opposite. She listened for God’s will. She heard God’s will in her heart. She did God’s will. She did not have to drive and force anything, because the Lord, in her obedient love, accomplished everything in, with, and through her. She did not have to trumpet anything, because the Lord was accomplishing everything in her.

In this, she is, herself a reflection of Who is Jesus Christ, because He is not driving Himself into the front of everyone’s attention in the Gospels. Yes, He is very much in the front of our attention, but as people are writing quite truthfully these days (when they are trying to pooh-pooh who He is), our Lord did not write anything. Probably it is more accurate to say that our Lord did not write anything that we know of or received. People did write about Him and about what He said, however. One very significant statement was written by the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, who wrote : “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). In fact, our Lord did not say so many very original things. Rather, He summed up, in what He had to say and do and be, all the prophets that had come before Him. The Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in Him. He is not innovating ; He is fulfilling. He is in the front of the Gospels because He is the incarnate Son of God, but in the world He is scarcely noticed. He is referred to in some secondary sources, very indirectly, but we know Him because of the effects of His love, the effects of the life that flows from Him. It is the same with the Mother of God.

You and I, Orthodox Christians, need to remember this in the course of our attempt to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. The Mother of God is our example, and I am only repeating what the Fathers tell us about her. The Mother of God is our example of how to live our lives : lives that are full of life-giving love, lives that are full of life, lives that are full of service. The Christian way is imitation of Christ who is Love and Life and Service. He is saying to you and to me : “'Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you ... For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light'” (Matthew 11:28-30). He is the One who is bearing all this weight for us. He is the One who is doing everything for us. He is the One who cares about the brokenness of our hearts, our lives, our pain and our sorrow. He is the One who continually is serving us by healing us, by consoling us, by renewing us, by giving us hope.

Our Lord never ceases serving His creatures. Seeing how perfectly the Mother of God did and does the same until this very day, we can take heart that we can, by her prayers and protection, do this too : live our lives in loving service, imitating our Saviour Jesus Christ. We see how the lives of the apostles are filled with the same life, love and service. We see how effective are their lives because they are so in harmony with our Saviour. We look at the lives of the saints, who are also looking to the Mother of God and to the apostles, and who are imitating Christ in the same way. Although some people do have to have academic degrees, we do not require them to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Degrees, or no degrees, we have to be loving, obedient, humble and serving persons. Then, whether we have degrees or whether we do not have degrees, the Lord uses our education, our gifts, our talents, our everything to our welfare, to the building up of the Body of Christ, to the strengthening of His Church. He makes us, just as the Mother of God, strong in our weakness, effective in our humility, and even, dare I say it, great in our smallness and our invisibility.

Here in our midst, here in n, the Lord is doing this also with us. We have not been a very big, visible or influential community in the way the world understands such things. However, the Lord has been doing much in and through this community, as He has been doing much in and through others of our communities. He has been touching lives. He has been healing people. He has been drawing broken people to Himself, and healing them, and renewing them, and making them strong. He is continuing to do this in and through us.

By the intercessions of the Mother of God, let us determine to be as faithful as we can, as obedient as we can, in accordance with her example. Let us offer our lives in service to our Saviour. In and through our lives, may someone see something of Him, and be able to find hope and consolation. Even if our whole lives are spent, and only one person is encouraged and renewed by our example, our lives are far from empty. Every single person created by God is precious to Him. However, I rather think that in the life of any one of us, it is very likely that it is not only one person who is renewed and given hope and consolation by our loving service to our Saviour. If it is only one person, however, our life is still not empty – it is still a fruitful life glorifying our Saviour.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, let us do our best to turn our lives over to our Saviour, following her example. Let us do our best to glorify Him in everything, together with the unoriginate Father, and His all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.