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St. Drosis, the Daughter of Emperor Trajan

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Commemorated on March 22

St. Drosis was daughter of Emperor Trajan, a fierce persecutor of Christians. In 99 AD, he revived an earlier law which forbade secret gatherings that was indirectly aimed against the Christians. In 104, he issued a special law against those who believed in Christ. The persecutions continued until the end of his reign.

During this same time, the bodies of martyred Christians often remained unburied in order to intimidate others. Five virgins, Aglaida, Apolliniaria, Daria, Mamthusa and Thais, took upon themselves the task of burying the bodies of these holy martyrs. They secretly gathered up the bodies, anointed them with spices, wrapped them in shrouds, and buried them. When she learned of this, Drosis, a secret Christian but not yet baptized, asked the holy virgins to take her with them.

On the advice of the court dignitary, Adrian, a guard was set over those who had been killed to arrest anyone who tried to bury them. On the very first night, St. Drosis and the five virgins were caught. Learning that one of the captives was his own daughter, Trajan gave orders to hold her separately, in the hope that she would change her mind.

St. Callinica and St. Basilissa of Rome

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Commemorated on March 22

Sts. Callinica and Basilissa were wealthy matrons who spent their fortunes bringing aid to the imprisoned Christians in their area.

They were arrested for their generosity and beheaded by the sword at Rome in the year 252.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Lydia in Illyria

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Commemorated on March 23

St. Philetus was a dignitary at the court of Emperor Hadrian, a persecutor of Christians in the third century. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, St. Philetus was brought to trial with his wife, St. Lydia, and their sons, Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Emperor Hadrian’s order, St. Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor, Amphilochius, to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend the family from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day, the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. Governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!,” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when Emperor Hadrian visited Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God, they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God. They then surrendered their holy souls to Him.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Forefeast of the Annunciation

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Commemorated on March 24

A forefeast (also known as prefeast) is a period of time preceding certain major feasts of the Christian year during which the Church anticipates the approaching festival. The liturgical life of the Church reflects this anticipation by foreshadowing the feast in the divine services celebrated during the forefeast.

The Forefeast of the Annunciation is celebrated the day before the actual feast.

Troparion (Tone 4) –

Today is the prelude of joy for the universe!

Let us anticipate the feast and celebrate with exultation:

Gabriel is on his way to announce the glad tidings to the Virgin;

He is ready to cry out in fear and wonder:

Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!

Kontakion (Tone 8) –

You are the beginning of salvation for all of us on earth, Virgin Mother of God.

For the great Archangel Gabriel, God's minister, was sent from heaven to stand before you to bring you joy:

Therefore, we all cry to you: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God of the "Uncut Mount" or "The Clouded Mountain"

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Commemorated on March 24

This icon was originally found in one of the men’s monasteries in Tver, Russia, and was presented by the Superior to Cosmas Volchaninov in gratitude for his fine work in the monastery church. This icon was passed on from generation to generation, but Cosmas’s grandson placed the icon in an attic.

The young man’s bride endured insults from her husband and his relatives. In despair over her marriage, she decided to commit suicide in a deserted bathhouse. On the way there, a monk appeared to her and said, “Where are you going, unhappy one? Go back, pray to the Theotokos of The Clouded Mountain, and you will live in peace.”

The young wife returned home and revealed everything, not even concealing her thoughts of suicide. Her husband and his family searched for the monk, but they did not find him, and no one saw him but the young woman. This event took place on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.

The family found the icon in the attic, cleaned off the dirt, and set it up in the house in a place of honor. In the evening, the parish priest served an all-night Vigil before the icon. From that time, a Vigil was served in the house every year on that same day.

The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

clip_image002Commemorated on March 25

The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. There is a painting of the Annunciation in the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome dating from the second century. The Council of Toledo in 656 mentions the Feast. In 692 the Council in Trullo celebrated the Annunciation during Great Lent.

The Greek and Slavonic names for the Feast may be translated as “good tidings.” This, of course, refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation He brings. The background of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of St. Luke (1:26-38). The troparion describes this as the “beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the eternal mystery,” for on this day the Son of God became the Son of Man.

There are two main components to the Annunciation: the message itself, and the response of the Virgin. The message fulfills God’s promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” The Fathers of the Church understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. The prophets hinted at His coming, but the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed that the promise is about to be fulfilled.

Leavetaking of the Annunciation

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Commemorated on March 26

On the Leavetaking of the Feast of the Annunciation, the Church commemorates the Archangel Gabriel, who announced the great mystery of the Incarnation of Christ to the Virgin Mary. There is no period of Afterfeast due to Great Lent.

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!

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Agnes, along with others, in the Crimea

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Commemorated on March 26

St. Agnes was one of twenty-six martyrs who were killed by the Goths around 375 under Jungerich, a persecutor of Christians. Ancient synaxaria of the Gothic Church recount the martyrdom of twenty-six Christians in the time of Emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian. King Jungerich was enraged to see his subjects embracing Christianity because of the preaching of the Arian bishop, Ulfilas, and therefore ordered many of them to be tortured and executed, often without trial.

King Jungerich’s ministers placed a statue in a chariot and paraded it before the tents where Christians met for church services. Those who worshiped the idol and offered sacrifice were spared, while the rest were burned alive in the tent. Jungerich also gave orders to burn down a church during divine services. In the fiery inferno, 308 people perished, of whom only twenty-one are known by name. There was also an anonymous man who came to the tent and confessed Christ. He was martyred with the others.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Gaatha, the Queen, along with others, in the Crimea

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Commemorated on March 26

St. Gaatha was one of twenty-six martyrs who were killed by the Goths around 375 under Jungerich, a persecutor of Christians. Ancient synaxaria of the Gothic Church recount the martyrdom of twenty-six Christians in the time of Emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian. King Jungerich was enraged to see his subjects embracing Christianity because of the preaching of the Arian bishop, Ulfilas, and therefore ordered many of them to be tortured and executed, often without trial.

King Jungerich’s ministers placed a statue in a chariot and paraded it before the tents where Christians met for church services. Those who worshiped the idol and offered sacrifice were spared, but the rest were burned alive in the tent. Jungerich also gave orders to burn down a church during divine services. In the fiery inferno, 308 people perished, of whom only twenty-one are known by name. There was also an anonymous man who came to the tent and confessed Christ. He was martyred with the others.

In the reign of Valentinian and Theodosius in the late fourth century, the Gothic king’s widow, Gaatha (who was an Orthodox Christian), and her daughter, Duclida, gathered up the relics of the holy martyrs and brought them to Syria with the help of some priests and a layman named Thyellas. Gaatha later returned to her native land where she was stoned and died as a martyr along with her son, Agathon.

St. Larissa, the laywoman, along with others, in the Crimea

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Commemorated on March 26

St. Larissa was one of twenty-six martyrs who were killed by the Goths around the year 375 under Jungerich, a persecutor of Christians. Ancient synaxaria of the Gothic Church recount the martyrdom of twenty-six Christians in the time of Emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian. King Jungerich was enraged to see his subjects embracing Christianity because of the preaching of the Arian bishop, Ulfilas, and therefore ordered many of them to be tortured and executed, often without trial.

King Jungerich’s ministers placed a statue in a chariot and paraded it before the tents where Christians met for church services. Those who worshiped the idol and offered sacrifice were spared, while the rest were burned alive in the tent. Jungerich also gave orders to burn down a church during divine services. In the fiery inferno, 308 people perished, of whom only twenty-one are known by name. There was also an anonymous man who came to the tent and confessed Christ. He was martyred with the others.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Maxima of Singidunum, and her priest-husband, St. Montanus

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Commemorated on March 26

St. Maxima and her priest-husband, St. Montanus, lived in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade in Serbia) in the fourth century during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The Emperor’s deputy, Galerius, issued an edict requiring Christians to offer sacrifices to the idols. The pious couple refused, and continued to conduct their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They traveled to Sirmium (west of Belgrade) in order to distance themselves from the seat of power. However, in the year 304, they were seized by Roman soldiers and brought to stand trial before Governor Probus.

As they stood before the governor on a bridge overlooking the Sava River, the captives were given the choice of sacrifice to the idols or death. St. Montanus showed great heroism and explained that if he were to sacrifice to the idols, it would be tantamount to rejecting Jesus Christ as God and Lord of heaven and earth, and he refused to comply.

Frustrated and intending to take advantage of her “weaker” sex, Probus tried to persuade St. Maxima to deny Christ. Much to the surprise of the crowd, her fidelity and apostolic courage proved to be as great, if not greater, than her husband’s. St. Maxima defended her faith so convincingly and with such eloquent zeal that Probus cut the trial short, fearing mass conversions to Christianity.

Icon of the Mother of God "of the Akathist"

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Commemorated on March 27

There are other icons of this name which are commemorated on January 12 (Hilandar Icon “Of the Akathist”), and October 10 (Zographou Icon “Of the Akathist”).

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Matrona of Thessalonica

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Commemorated on March 27

The Holy Martyr Matrona of Thessalonica suffered in the third or fourth century. She was a slave of a Jewish woman Pautila, who was the wife of one of the military commanders of Thessalonica. Pautila constantly mocked Matrona for her faith in Christ, and tried to convert her to Judaism. St. Matrona, who believed in Christ from her youth, still prayed to the Savior Christ, and secretly went to church unbeknownst to her vengeful mistress.

Pautila, learning that St. Matrona had been to church, asked, “Why won’t you come to our synagogue, instead of attending the Christian church?” St. Matrona boldly answered, “Because God is present in the Christian church, but He has departed from the Jewish synagogue.” Pautila went into a rage and beat St. Matrona, tied her up, and shut her in a dark closet. In the morning, Pautila discovered that St. Matrona had been freed of her bonds by an unknown Power.

In a rage, Pautila beat the martyr almost to death, then bound her even more tightly and locked her in the closet. The door was sealed so that no one could help her. The holy martyr remained there for four days without food or water, and when Pautila opened the door, she again found St. Matrona free of her bonds, and standing at prayer.

Pautila flogged the holy martyr and left the skin hanging in strips from her body. She locked her in the closet again where St. Matrona gave up her spirit to God.

Icon of the Mother of God "Of the Sign"

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Commemorated on March 28 (also on November 27)

The actual account of the Icon of the Sign is to be found on November 27. Today’s commemoration may be for a wonder-working copy of the original icon.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Repose of Blessed Mother Gavrilia

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Commemorated on March 28

Mother Gavrilia, who was known to many who are still alive, has not been officially glorified by the Church, but is considered by many to be a Saint of our time. Her biography, “Ascetic of Love,” has been translated into English and several other languages.

Mother Gavrilia was born in Constantinople on October 15, 1897. She grew up in the city until her family moved to Thessalonika in 1923. She traveled to England in 1938 and stayed there throughout World War II. She trained as a physiotherapist and, in 1945, returned to Greece where she worked with the Friends Refugee Mission and the American Farm School in Thessalonika. Later, she opened her own therapy office in Athens. In March 1954, her mother died, and the therapy office was closed. Gavrilia left Greece and traveled to India where she worked with the poorest of the poor, even the lepers, for five years.

Meeting of the Holy Mother of God and St. Elizabeth

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Commemorated on March 30

The establishment of this Feast and the composition of the Service are the work of Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin (+ 1894), head of the Russian Orthodox Mission in Jerusalem.

The Gorneye Convent in Jerusalem, built on the site of the Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth, celebrates this Feast on March 30. If March 30 should fall between Lazarus Saturday and Pascha, however, the Feast is transferred to Bright Friday.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Euboula, the Mother of St. Panteleimon

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Commemorated on March 30

St. Euboula was the mother of the Great Martyr St. Panteleimon. She gave birth to Panteleimon in 284 in the city of Nicodemia (currently called Izmit, in northern Turkey near the Black Sea).

St. Euboula was a devout Christian who raised her son in the Christian way of life.

She passed away around 303 while Panteleimon was still young.

After her death, his father sent Panteleimon to a pagan school where the young man studied medicine.

Troparion (Tone 5) –

Let us fittingly praise with joyful hymns,

Holy Eubula, mother of our protector, Panteleimon.

She has given birth to our defender and healer,

The glory of martyrs and unmercinary physicians

And the swift healer of all.

Kontakion (Tone 3) –

Let us assemble today and joyfully celebrate

The mother of our protector, holy Eubula.

She stands before the throne of God with him,

Interceding unceasingly for us,

That we may be granted forgiveness of our sins!

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God "the Iveron's Appearance"

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Commemorated on March 31 (also commemorated on February 12, October 13 & Bright Tuesday)

The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (which is preserved on Mt. Athos) was kept in the home of a certain pious widow, who lived near Nicea. During the time of Emperor Theophilus, Iconoclasts came to the house of the woman, and one of the soldiers struck the image of the Mother of God with a spear. Blood flowed from the place where it was struck.

The widow, fearing the icon’s destruction, promised the imperial soldiers money and implored them not to touch the icon until morning. When the soldiers departed, the woman and her son (later an Athonite monk), sent the holy icon away upon the sea to preserve it. The icon, standing upright upon the water, floated to Athos.

For several days, the Athonite monks had seen a fiery pillar on the sea rising up to the heavens. They came down to the shore and found the holy image, standing upon the waters. After a Molieben of thanksgiving, a pious monk of the Iveron monastery, St. Gabriel, had a dream in which the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him instructions. He walked across the water, and taking up the holy icon, placed it in the church.

The Truth of Pascha

image By Douglas Cramer, Editor, Antiochian.org  

I've recently been spending time with an old college roommate, a man dying of cancer in his 30’s. He’s not Christian, not married, has no children. We spend a lot of time talking about death. “What do you believe happens when we die?”, my friend asked unprompted one afternoon as we sat outside his home. “You know I’m a Christian,” I answered. “This is what I believe.” And I talked about the Resurrection, about how I believe the truth is that we are created for life, body and soul. That death is not the end. That we are called to live, to live the life of the New Man.

Click here to read the rest.

The Truth of Pascha

By Douglas Cramer, Editor, Antiochian.org

I've recently been spending time with an old college roommate, a man dying of cancer in his 30’s. He’s not Christian, not married, has no children. We spend a lot of time talking about death. “What do you believe happens when we die?”, my friend asked unprompted one afternoon as we sat outside his home. “You know I’m a Christian,” I answered. “This is what I believe.” And I talked about the Resurrection, about how I believe the truth is that we are created for life, body and soul. That death is not the end. That we are called to live, to live the life of the New Man.

This is what I believe. This is what I know. Death is not our end. I know that this is true. In the Gospel of John, we read Jesus Christ’s words to Pontius Pilate before His crucifixion: “For this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” And Pilate answers: “What is truth?”

What is truth? What is falsehood? These are the questions we all need to ask. What do you believe to be true? If a dying man with no knowledge of God asked you what you believe about death, what would you say? God wants us to have an answer. He wants us to know that there is Truth. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” Christ teaches.

We should strive to be “of the truth.” Truth comes to us not as a sterile solution, as an answer to the question “What is truth?” Truth comes to us as life – the life of Christ. Truth is not a “what.” Truth is a “Who”.

April 16, 2008 + The Light of His Face and the Flame of Pascha

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By Fr. Demetrios S. Kavadas

Word Magazine, May 1994

bp.thomas@antiochian.org

I was ready to begin this article and suddenly I noticed that I have eight different depictions of Christ on the walls of my office. Each one of them has a message for me. All of them have a strange illumination. Joy and sadness blend mysteriously. Majesty and humility are simultaneously expressed. Austerity and friendliness are combined miraculously, as if He wants to tell me constantly: “I will be with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Other times, when He sees me depressed, He lifts me up with His look: “The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world” (John 16:33). So often, when I fight various “wars,” His face assures me of what I need frequently on the battlefield against evil with a divine gift: “Peace be with you” (John 20:21).

OCMC Mission Specialist Fr. John Erickson Prepares for Service in Tanzania

This month, Fr. John Erickson will journey to Tanzania as an OCMC Mission Specialist to teach seminarians at the Kasikizi Catechetical Center.  Fr. John began teaching at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 1973 and is currently the Peter N. Gramowich Professor of Church History.  He is also a well-known expert in Canon Law.

The Orthodox Church in Tanzania has grown tremendously under the leadership of His Eminence Jeronymos, Metropolitan of Mwanza.  In the past 10 years, the number of parishes has more than tripled, and the number of Faithful has more than doubled.  His Eminence has maintained a missionary spirit that helps the Church in Tanzania to thrive.

The increasing growth of the Church has resulted in the need for more qualified priests and catechists.  In 2006, there were only 34 Tanzanian priests serving the more than 41,000 Faithful. The Kasikizi Catechetical Center, located in the Tanzanian Metropolis of Mwanza, seeks to meet this need, offering both seminary classes and seminars for those who desire to learn more about the Faith and to continue the work of the Gospel. 

Fr. John said of his mission in Tanzania, “I expect to learn as much as I am going to teach.”  He went on to describe the importance of not just knowing about Orthodoxy or of doing Orthodox things, but of being Orthodox.  Please pray for Fr. John during his time in Tanzania.

OCMC anticipates future opportunities to support theological education in the field.  There are currently twenty- one open missionary positions to meet immediate needs identified by Hierarchs.  If you are interested in exploring these opportunities further, please contact the OCMC Missionary Department at 1-877-463- 6784.

Lenten Supper with Prof. Kyriacos C. Markides

The Teen SOYO of St. Anthony's Church invites you to hear Prof. Kyriacos C. Markides on Friday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

Professor Kyriacos Markides, who teaches sociology at the University of Maine, will discuss his spiritual journey first, as a Cypriot born into the Orthodox faith, who then moved away from it, rediscovered it, and now embraces it. A celebrated author of The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox spirituality, listeners will find his conversion stories captivating and uplifting. He will give listeners a glimpse of the transcendent Orthodox Christian world of prayer, meditation and mysticism.

This event will take place at St. Anthony’s Orthodox Church, 385 Ivy Lane, Bergenfield, NJ. For more information, call 201-568-8840.

From the Frontlines: A Letter from Chaplain Fr. Stephan Close

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Our brother, Fr. Stephan Close, the U.S. Air Force chaplain stationed at the airbase in Ramstein, Germany, shares with us the following observations of his very special and grace-filled ministry:

"Your Grace, one of the joys of my ministry here at 'the Ramstein of my repentance' is to serve the wounded.  Rarely do I have the blessed obligation to honor the dead, which I offer with as much dignity as my humanity can muster. It is such a blessing to be at worship with the wounded faithful who look to the icons with eyes which cannot see and offer a candle though they remain in physical darkness, their hand guided by fellow warrior.  They faithfully follow a Divine Liturgy (and wait patiently through a sermon) in a language they do not understand but whose form helps them recall worship and remind them of truth which warms their hearts though far away from home.  They walk towards the chalice though one shoe has no foot in it.  They bow down although they cannot rise without the support of their brother.  They make the sign of the cross with a hand scarred and tortured by flame.  Such are the saints you have sent me to serve. 

The Akathist Hymn

By Frederica Mathewes-Green

One of the most beautiful examples of Orthodox hymn-writing is the example known as "the Akathist Hymn." It is concerned with the miracle of Christ's Incarnation, and focuses on the events from Gabriel's announcement of Christ's conception, to the moment aged Symeon receives the infant Christ in his arms.

Because the Feast of the Annunciation always falls in Lent, many Orthodox churches offer this hymn during these weeks, usually in the context of an evening prayer service. If you check the calendar of your local Orthodox church you can probably visit one evening and hear this ancient and beautiful hymn.

The "Akathist Hymn" was written in the early 500's by St Romanos, a Syrian. "Akathist" means "not-seated" ("kath" being a chair or a seat; the "cathedral" is where the bishop's throne is kept). The hymn probably acquired this title when it was chanted by a congregation praying desperately for protection from a hostile army; their urgency was demonstrated by remaining standing the entire time. I haven't been able to find out what Romanos' original title for it was, but I call it "The Annunciation Hymn" to distinguish it from all the other, subsequent, akathists.

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