Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
May we respond instantly to do the Lord’s Will
Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God
25 March, 2009
Hebrews 2:11-18 ; Luke 1:24-38

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

Very often I get asked about this particular Divine Liturgy : “Why are we celebrating it on the twenty-fifth itself, and not last evening ?” Last evening, all the texts in Great Vespers and Matins were about this feast-day. This evening, we are already hearing about tomorrow, which is the feast-day of the Archangel Gabriel. The reason it is like this, of course, is because once the sun is setting, according to the Orthodox and ancestral Jewish way of doing things, we are starting the next day. Once we come to the “Lord, I call” we are already preparing for the next day. The question is certainly legitimate, but it is not as simple as that. Yesterday, all the texts were about today.

Where are we ? We are in the middle of Great Lent. The Feast of the Annunciation never happens except in Great Lent. What, then, does this mean ? During the week-days in Great Lent (it does not matter office we are serving, whether it is the regular Wednesday or Friday Presanctified Liturgy, or any feast-day services), we are not celebrating anything until the evening. This is because during the day-time on Lenten week-days, we are keeping a fast. If we were in a monastery and being strict (not bending the rules one way or the other), we would not be eating anything until the sun sets. Therefore, we cannot celebrate the Presanctified Liturgy until the sun sets, and we cannot celebrate the Divine Liturgy on a feast-day like this until the sun sets. However, this is where we have these confusions. Yes, liturgically, March 26 has already started, and the feast-day of the Archangel Gabriel is beginning. However, we are receiving Holy Communion for today. We have fasted all day on March 25 on this feast-day, in order to receive Holy Communion on this Feast of the Annunciation to the Mother of God.

This may not make any sense to you even yet, but this is how the Orthodox Church always approaches things. Two things are overlapping at the same time on more than one occasion during our year, and this is one of those occasions. Liturgically, the new day begins at the time of sunset, but when it comes to fasting, fasting only starts when you get up in the morning. It finishes at the end of the day. That is why we are doing it like this.

On this day we are celebrating the Annunciation to the Mother of God. Nothing on this feast-day and nothing about this Event is accidental. Everything has been prepared. This is not simply some sort of out-of-the-blue event in which we are participating. We have just participated in the announcing by the Archangel Gabriel to the Mother of God that she would conceive and bear a Child. Yet, she was only betrothed to Joseph. She was not yet married to Joseph. She had been correct about everything. In other words, she was a virgin, and remained a virgin, and her question to the Archangel Gabriel is absolutely necessary. If this is going to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, how is it going to be ? What does all this mean ?

“‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you’”. This is how the Archangel Gabriel explained it. In fact, he said words that Our Saviour Himself will say : “‘With God nothing will be impossible’”. This Conception of the Son of God today is definitely exceptional, but with God everything is possible. The Lord is doing this today in order to show you and me the depth of His love and how He is preparing everything. Today, the Angel says to the Mother of God : “‘You shall call His name Jesus’”. This is not just any old name, because this Name carries with it the meaning of “Saviour”. A person who knows Hebrew would understand the meaning behind this name “Saviour”. When we are speaking about our Saviour, we tend to speak about Him as though the second title, “Christ”, were His family name, or something. We speak about Him as Jesus Christ and we probably seldom think about what are the implications of these words. This is understandable, because most of us do not know too much Greek. However, it is still important for us to understand.

When we are saying Jesus Christ, we should not be saying this as if it were two names. We should, correctly, be saying : “Jesus, the Christ”. The Christ means “the Anointed One”. Jesus, our Saviour, is the ultimate Anointed One. There were anointed ones before Him, such as David, the King and Prophet. In other words, there were christs before, but Jesus is The Christ. He is the ultimate Christ. He is the Anointed One, which is the English meaning of the Greek word Khristos, Christ. The Greek word Khristos is itself a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Jesus is the Promised One. He is the One who is going to save the world and establish God’s rule permanently. It is He who is overcoming evil. It is He who is overcoming death. He is the One who is sent, who is anointed, who is appointed, who is prepared. Underlining all these things is the fact that His cousin was conceived six months previous to this day, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke. Saint John the Forerunner was conceived under wonderful circumstances also, to parents who were barren, old, and who ordinarily could conceive a child (and yet, they did).

The Lord was preparing, and is preparing. These things that are happening are not accidental, and they are not obscure. Every Event that is happening is significant, and needs to be understood in accordance with the Lord’s love and His presence with us. That is one of the reasons why the Mother of God, who had been living her life as one of perpetual preparation to do God’s will, is able to say at the end of this encounter with the Archangel Gabriel : “‘Behold the maid-servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’”. The Archangel says that even though it is very strange, with God it is possible that this can be. The Mother of God instantly accepts. She accepts the words of the Archangel, and the obvious will of God in the same way which the first Eve did before the Fall. The Mother of God is called the Second Eve because the first Eve before the Fall always, instantly, and without even having to stop to think about it, said “Yes” to the Lord. (After the Fall, she started to ask too many questions, and became all confused.) The Mother of God puts everything back in order today by immediately saying “Yes” as the Second Eve.

It is important for you and for me to take heart and example from this Event that we are participating in now. Just as the Mother of God is saying “Yes” instantly to God’s will out of love, without having first to think about it, so should and can you and I, in Christ, by the support and prayers of the Mother of God. You and I can come to that point in our lives, also. Before we die, you and I can come to the point where we can say “Yes”, instantly, to God’s will expressed to us. Through the intercessions, support and example of the Mother of God, and by the Grace of the Holy Spirit that is overshadowing her now, we, also, can do it. To prove it, there have been many saints in the past 2,000 years who have come to that. There are actually very many whom we do not even know. God, in His mercy, does not tell or show us everything because we would get “too big for our britches” too fast.

The Lord loves us. He is with us. He is showing us His true, immediate, tender love for us all in this Event that we have just witnessed. Let us ask the Lord to enable us to respond to Him and to His will with love, and to shine with His love, as the Mother of the God does. Let us ask Him to enable us to become strong, powerful, mighty intercessors, as the Mother of God is for us and with us. As she does, so may we also do in everything, glorifying the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.