Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Encountering the Living God in Love
Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God
25 March, 2010
Hebrews 2:11-18 ; Luke 1:24-38


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

The Lord’s merciful love is always with us. The Lord’s merciful love is always preparing for what is necessary. The Lord’s merciful love is always overcoming obstacles. As we sing and say sometimes in our prayers : “When the Lord wills, the order of nature is overcome”.

Today, we see the Archangel Gabriel appearing first to Elizabeth and telling her (who was not ever expected to have a child) that she would have a child. Six months later, he is appearing to Mary and telling her (who is not even married yet) that she will have a child. Of course, she asks how could this be. The Archangel Gabriel says to her what is always being said to you and to me (except that we keep forgetting) : “Do not be afraid”. She accepted the word of the Archangel, and she did not allow any fear to interfere. She trusted him, and she trusted the love of God. Therefore, by being lowly as she was, she became full of the Holy Spirit. She gave birth contrary to the expectations of nature. This birth had been pre-confirmed by the unexpected birth of the cousin, John the Forerunner.

The Archangel said that Mary would give birth to a boy whom she would call Jesus. Why the name “Jesus” in particular ? It is because this name in Aramaic and in Hebrew means “Saviour”. The very name given to Him at His birth by divine command tells everyone from the beginning Who He is that has been born. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One. He is the One who will save us from our sins. He will save us from death. He will save us from our brokenness. He will save us from our separation from the love of God. The fulness of that experience is going to be repeated in this Temple just next week, in Holy Week.

Throughout her life, the Mother of God remained always faithful, trusting in the words of the Archangel and in her personal experience of the love of God. She shows to you and to me, Orthodox Christians, that the relationship with God is not merely an intellectual one (although the intellect is certainly involved). However, this relationship is not fundamentally intellectual. The first thing about the relationship with God is the experience of His love. Everything else comes after that. For instance, that is why Saint Basil the Great is Saint Basil the Great, or why Saint John Chrysostom is “the golden-mouthed”. Along with a myriad of others, they are persons who encountered the Living God in love, and who continued to live in accordance with that experience. Their words, their teachings, their prayers are all in the context of (and a product of) this experience of love. It is this experience of love that Saint Seraphim, for instance, tells us that we all should expect, should look for, and should allow to happen in our lives. It is the same encounter with the same Living God as was given, and is given to the Mother of God.

The Mother of God said, and always says to this very day : “Yes” to the will of God, the Father. Her unity in heart with God is similar to (but greater than) that of Adam and Eve before the Fall. They knew in their hearts (without even having to ask) what is God’s will. The unity in love of the Mother of God with her Son, with God the Father, and with the Holy Trinity is similar to this – open, unhindered, ever-flowing love. She always knows what is the will of God, and she always does what is the will of God.

This is the direction that the Lord is calling you and me to follow, in harmony with the “Yes” of the Mother of God. It is for us to be as the Mother of God. To do this, we have to do as we see her do in her icon on the iconostas, as we see her do in her icon above on the wall, as we see her do in most of the icons. She is always directing us to her Son, who is the Light and the Life of the world. Because of her attitude of love and harmony with Him, she has become “more honourable than the Cherubim, and greater in honour than the Seraphim”. She is called “the General” of the triumphant hosts of angels, which, indeed, she is. She is our protection. Do not forget what happened when Pochaiv was invaded by the Muslims, and they were trying to kill the monks. The Mother of God appeared above the monastery and protected it. Do not forget what happened at the Tikhvin Monastery in Russia when the Swedes were going to attack it. The Mother of God appeared to the monks, and said : “Go with my icon around the monastery in prayer”. Carrying the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin, and singing an akathist or moleben, they processed around the monastery, and the Swedes went home.

These things happen over and over again. Do not forget that when there was a forest fire, Saint Herman of Alaska put the icon of the Mother of God before the forest fire, and the forest fire stopped. Do not forget that when there was a tsunami coming towards the island in Alaska, he again put the icon of the Mother of God on the sand, and the tsunami stopped right there. The Mother of God is the victorious Leader of triumphant hosts. She is the Great Marshal of spiritual military might. She is victorious. Her victorious power is her love for her Son.

It is for you and me, Orthodox Christians, to participate in this love, this life, this victory, and to imitate her way of life. In so doing, may we bring light, love, and life to this city. May this city, eventually and finally, as it was called to do in the beginning, glorify in the Orthodox manner the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.