March 25/April 7
“The ‘Incarnation’, it has been rightly said, ‘was not only the work of the Father, of His Power and His Spirit: it was also the work of the will of the faith of the Virgin’ (Nicolas Cabasilas). On the feast of the Annunciation, therefore, Orthodoxy commemorates not only the divine initiative, whereby God in His lovingkindness took flesh from a Virgin; it commemorates also the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation set before her. God always respects human liberty; and so, when He elected to become man, He desired to do so with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38): Mary’s answer to the angel was not a forgone conclusion. She could have refused: she was not a passive instrument but an active participant, with a free and positive part to play in God’s scheme of salvation.
To make abundantly clear the voluntary character of her choice, the Canon for the Annunciation takes the form of a dialogue between the Virgin and Gabriel. Mary’s doubts are set forth with the utmost directness, we see all her incredulity and her embarrassment; and this is done in order to make clear that she acted in full freedom, consciously and deliberately accepting the will of God. When, on this and other feasts, the Orthodox Church shows honor to the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose aright.”
– The Festal Menaion
Mother Mary, Archbishop Kallistos Ware
Holy Scripture Accounts
Vespers (Eve of the Feast)
- Genesis 28:10-17
- Ezekiel 43:27-44:4
- Proverbs 9:1-11
- Luke 1:39-49; 56
The Epistle (from feast day Liturgy)
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:
‘I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’
‘I will put My trust in Him.’
‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.“
– Hebrews 2:11-18
The Gospel (from feast day Liturgy)
“Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’ Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.‘
Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?‘
And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.‘
Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.“
– Luke 1:24-38
Troparion (Tone 4)
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!
Kontakion (Tone 8)
O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!
Teaching from The Annunciation Icon
“Jesus the Messiah is here even though we can’t see Him. He’s in the Theotokos’ womb, as fully human as He is at the Nativity or any other point in His life. This is His Incarnation.”
“Mary is shown sitting on a throne since she is ‘more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim’. She herself has become the throne of God. The yarn in her left hand shows that just as (according to tradition) she’s stitching together the veil of the temple, the incarnate God now begins to be ‘stitched together’ in her womb. Her raised right hand indicates both her acceptance of God’s plan and a prudent hesitancy at the angel’s words.”
“The Archangel Gabriel rushes toward Mary, feet far apart and one wing blowing back to show the urgency of his message. The other wing is raised toward heaven. In his left hand he holds the staff of a messenger, while his right hand is extended to show that he is bringing Mary the good news. Gabriel, whose name means ‘God is mighty’, reveals that the Mighty One will make Himself helpless for us.”
“God the Father & the Holy Spirit, as in other festal icons, are represented by the semicircle at the top of the icon. The hue is dark, showing it is the unknowable God who will be carried in Mary’s womb. The ray that reaches all the way down to Mary represents the descent of the Holy Spirit.”
Quoted from: Heaven meets Earth: Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts (page 30), by John Kosmas Skinas
- The Annunciation – Exploring the Feasts of the Orthodox Church
featured image source for this post found at https://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/icons/of-the-theotokos/feasts-and-miracles/annunciation-20th-c-12d01/