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Sermon on Annunciation of the Virgin

The Annunciation is a joyous feast-day, because it announced the Savior coming soon into the world, Who brought the message of reconciliation with God. He opened the bright doors of paradise, which were closed to the human race for not listening to the commandments of God, and made known the infinite bliss of paradise, which our forefather Adam lost.

God, the All-Wise Creator of everything, created the incorporeal orders of the Angels and the Archangels, created the sky, lit bright stars in it, founded the earth, decorated it abundantly, then finally took the dust from the earth and created man in His own image and likeness. God breathed a soul into him and placed him in paradise, so that man, like a king, would have authority and power over the whole created world. The Lord enriched the first people with glory – Adam and his wife Eve, whom he created to help the first man, He decorated them with many talents and put under their control: all the sheep and oxen, and all the field animals, and the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, that pass through the paths of the seas (Psalm 8:7-8). But after some time had passed, the people were subjected to a dismal and destructive deprivation, after having listened to the wicked words of the devil, who deceived Eve (Gen. 3:5). Adam and Eve had all the blessings in paradise and they were immortal, but because of the desire to learn and have even more, they fell into such a sinful state that they were likened to meaningless cattle (Psalm 48).

 However, the Creator did not leave His creation – a man who had fallen for the seduction of the devil, from bliss to calamity, from immortality to death, from the blooming beauty of paradise to the thorns and wolves of the earth. God sent His Son to earth, so that He, having received human nature from the Holy Virgin, elevated man to the former state and exalted him to the former honor – for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (John 3:16).

In the sixth month, the Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth to a Virgin, betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, from the house of David. The Virgin’s name was Mary (Luke 1:26, 27). The name Mary in translation means “Lady” and it asserted the dignity of the Virgin and expressed Her way of life – pure, with a purity of soul and body. She was filled with true greatness and was the mistress of Her pure soul. Appearing to the Virgin, the Archangel greeted Her with the words: Rejoice, the Lord is with You, blessed are You among women, and blessed is the fruit of Your womb.

The Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that God the Father chose Her to be the Mother of His Son and to give birth to the Redeemer of the world: Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus (Luke 1:31). This message was truly amazing and even bewildering for the soul of the Virgin. With astonishment, She wished to know how this miraculous event would take place. Mary inquires of the Archangel Gabriel: How can this be, since I do not know a man? (Luke 1:34); As a virgin, how can I conceive a child when I am not married and do not know a husband (Canon of the Annunciation). The Archangel answers her with awe: Your Child’s conception is incomprehensible to the mind. What amazes You, Immaculate, is what amazes me (Canon of the Annunciation). The state of Archangel Gabriel is sometimes depicted on the icon of the Annunciation, where two images of the Archangel are depicted at once – one facing the Virgin with the message, and the other depicted turning away from Her, in utter bewilderment.

The Holy Virgin responds to the Archangel with deep humility, trusting in the will of God: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Instantly the Holy Spirit descended upon Her and the Divine Word was embodied in Her pure womb. The power of the Most High overshadowed her, “strengthening Her,” as St. Athanasius the Great wrote in “The Word on the Annunciation”, and She could envisage as much as possible the invisible God and the conceived Baby forming.

O how great is the humility of those mouths that said: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). By this, the Holy Virgin seemed to say: “I am not worthy to contain the Almighty, to give birth to My Creator, to be the Mother of My Creator, but I bow down with all humility, and let the Divine Word be written in Me.” O the depth of humility, ascending to heaven! Without Her humble word: “Let it be” – the incarnation of the Son of God and our salvation would be impossible. St. Gregory Palamas writes that the incarnation would be impossible without the free human consent of the Mother of God, as it would be impossible without the Creative will of God. In the Annunciation, the Virgin, with a humble mind and heart, trusted God to the end, and the Lord settled in Her, Who opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34).

If a person is proud, then the grace of the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in him, for the Lord detests all the proud of heart (Prov. 16:5). That is why the Holy Virgin, hearing from the lips of the Archangel Gabriel, that the Holy Spirit will come upon Her, replied with all humility: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) – and with these meek words drew the Son of God from heaven to earth.

Pride does not allow a modern, unchurched person to agree with the position of a servant, because he sees humiliation and lack of freedom in this. Christians, on the other hand, strive to become worthy servants of God on the road to salvation, entrusting their lives in the hands of God. The Mother of God truly gave Her life, Her will, Her destiny, undividedly to God, having received with full confidence the message that She would be the Mother of the Incarnate Son of God. Righteous Elizabeth said about Her: Blessed is She who believes, for it will be done as said by the Lord. In the Mother of God, we find an incomprehensible, marvelous ability to trust to the end with humility. It is important to note that this ability is not natural, that is, it was not given to Her by nature – this faith She gained by the feats of having a pure heart and love of God. It is impossible to describe the height of Her merits. Turning to the holy fathers, we see that they are in wonder about her perfection, even the angels remain silent – the most honorable Cherubim and the most glorious Seraphim, unable to express her upmost worthiness.

Recognizing the grace and the honor of becoming the Mother of God, the Most Holy Theotokos became the Mother of all Christians. With the boldness that is characteristic of a Mother in relation to a Son, She petitions to Him for all the orphaned, lonely, captive, sick and distressed hearts – to save them, to cleanse them of sins and passions, and to bless them with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Today, by celebrating the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Holy Church proclaims that our salvation has begun – that Victory has come to the world, delivering us from evil. The Mother of God is compared to the New Ark, as She saves those who call upon Her Most Pure Name from the darkest depths of sin. The Virgin Mary is also compared to the staircase leading to heaven (which the forefather Jacob saw in a dream), which is prepared for us to ascend to the Throne of God.

On this feast-day, let us glorify and praise the Holy Virgin, Who bestowed upon us the Savior, Who in Her purity and humility became the Brideless Mother, the Mother of the Son of God, the Glory and Joy of those who exist on earth and in heaven, Decorating the whole world, the Beginning and the Source of the heavenly blessings prepared for us, which we hope to receive through our faith and prayers to Her.

Let us glorify and praise Her now with the words of the feast-day’s troparion: Today, our salvation begins and the eternal mystery appears – the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin, is here. Gabriel preaches the joyful message, and we with him praise the Mother of God: rejoice, Blessed Mary, God is with You.