by Isabel C. Elac
from The Word, March 1988
The doorbell rings — you answer it — it is a stranger. Politely you listen. He tells you that you are going to conceive! In nine months! "Oh, how ridiculous" you say — and completely disturbed by this impossible announcement — completely outraged — you slam the door in his face!
Which one of us would act any differently? Today, we probably wouldn't even answer the door, right?
On March 25, the Church celebrates one of the most important events in world history — THE ANNUNCIATION — when the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph… and the virgin's name was Mary (Luke 1:26-27). The Angel Gabriel "came in unto her and said, Hail, thou that are highly favoured, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28).
How did Mary react? Did she throw him out — outraged — as most of us would have! Oh, with that beautiful, humble and complete submission, Mary responds to the Angel: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man (Luke 1:34)… For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).
What a role model — obedience, humility, faith, righteousness, trust. "LET IT BE" — can we fathom the immensity of her response which was "the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery which is from eternity: the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth good things of grace" (Troparion of the Feast of the Annunciation).
This marvelous power is Mary's pure and perfect self-dedication to God, a dedication of her will, of her thought, of her soul, of her entire being, of all her faculties, of all her actions, of all her hopes and expectations (quote from a sermon for the day of the Annunciation by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow — Paris 1866).
The obedience of Mary counterbalances the disobedience of Eve. In this sense, the Virgin Mary is the SECOND EVE (as her Son is the Second Adam).
Let us examine in more detail some of the names given to this blessed lady: EVER-VIRGIN MARY - this is not simply a bodily status or a physical feature as such; but it is also, above all, a spiritual and inner attitude. Her purity of heart - freedom from passions and desires - "imperviability to evil thoughts," as St. John of Damascus puts it. THEOTOKOS - MOTHER OF GOD - This is more than just a name. It is a doctrinal definition - in one word. "This name", says St. John of Damascus, "contains the whole mystery of the Incarnation." The name THEOTOKOS stresses the fact that the Child whom Mary bore was not a "simple man", not a human person but the only-begotten Son of God, "One of the Holy Trinity", yet Incarnate. This is obviously the cornerstone of the Orthodox Faith...
Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel - March 26
Supreme Leader of the heavenly Hosts, we implore thee that by thy prayers thou wilt encircle us unworthy as we are, with the protection of the wings of thine immaterial glory, and guard us who fall down before thee and fervently cry: Deliver us from dangers, for thou art the commander of the Powers above.
Kontakion of the Archangel Gabriel, Tone 2
Supreme Leader of God's armies and minister of the divine glory, prince of the Bodiless Angels and guide of men, ask what is good for us and great mercy, as Supreme Leader of the Bodiless Hosts.