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The Annunciation - the Mystery of Reconciliation of God with Humanity

Threads of Grace: the Annunciation Unveiled

the Feast of Annunciation

“These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

“I rejoice in heavenly love, and I tremble in earthly awe when the pure voice descends on you, O Theotokos: for it is a single triumph for both when the bodiless brings joy to you. Therefore, with the angel we cry out to you: rejoice, O Pure One, the dwelling of God.” (Bogorodichen, Chapter 3, Verse 1)

How rarely do we achieve that true, heart-filling joy that transcends every human experience? In childhood, it visits us more often — a pure soul takes delight in a sunny day, a glistening dewdrop on the grass, or a swallow soaring in the sky. Yet, as time marches on, this feeling of joy seems to wane, becoming a fleeting visitor, sometimes vanishing altogether.

But the Gospel, the very word meaning “good news” in Greek (Evangelion), brings a message of enduring joy. This joy resides within the soul, a constant companion in times of plenty or hardship, on festive occasions or ordinary days — it is the joy of the Lord. And it was this very joy that became accessible to humanity on the momentous day of the Annunciation: “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!”

The fullness of time had arrived. One of the archangels, a celestial being privy to the divine throne, descended to earth, to a humble village named Nazareth. Among the simple dwellings of local artisans and farmers, the archangel found a small carpenter's workshop. There resided a young Virgin Mary, a mere fifteen years of age, who had recently become an orphan. Few knew of her, save for the priests of the Jerusalem temple, where she had been raised until the age of fourteen.

The Church of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in Nazareth

The Church of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in Nazareth

Further, the liturgical text describes very accurately:

“Revealing to you the eternal counsel, O Virgin, Gabriel stood before you, giving you a kiss and proclaiming: rejoice, earth unsown, rejoice, bush unconsumed; rejoice, depth inconceivable, rejoice, ladder leading to heaven and high mountain seen by Jacob; rejoice, divine throne of manna, rejoice, annulment of the curse, rejoice, Adam’s recall: with you is the Lord.”

(Sticheron of the Annunciation at the Great Vespers)

In a profound act of revelation, God’s timeless decree for the salvation of fallen humanity was not entrusted to the Daughter of Man solely for understanding and acceptance, but for its very fulfilment through her. The Most Holy Virgin Mary stands as the purest vessel prepared by God Himself to receive the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord meticulously cultivated righteousness, and this fragrant flower of human nature blossomed in her. Fueled by the faith, the Blessed Virgin possessed the capacity to contain a mystery that even angelic minds could not grasp. Her complete obedience, expressed with every fibre of her being — will, thought, soul, and every capacity — extended even to her hopes and expectations of God. And so, she uttered the words that decided the fate of humanity: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (cf. Luke 1:28). This humble and meek “let it be” became the bridge, the path to reconciliation between God and humankind. Through Mary’s acceptance, the divine and human natures were united, the Son of God incarnate as the Lord Jesus Christ. He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the world's sins, redeeming us from eternal death. The Theotokos’ rational and willing submission to the omnipotent creative will of the Holy Trinity, a human act freely chosen, opened the gates of paradise to fallen humanity, once separated from the life of God.

St. Andrew of Crete writes in the “Discourse for the Day of the Annunciation”: “This is the mystery of reconciliation of God with humanity. This is the subject of the present celebration — the union of God with the earthly, the adoration of the nature accepted by Him, and our elevation and ascension to heaven... Therefore, let everyone rejoice today: today the heaven is opened, and the earth invisibly accepts the King of all.”

The Church of the Annunciation above the spring of the Mother of God in Nazareth

The Church of the Annunciation above the spring of the Mother of God in Nazareth

According to one tradition, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Most Holy Virgin Mary at the well, Nazareth’s sole source of water. As was customary, women would fetch water, traversing the village to reach the well. There, the Archangel not only delivered the joyful news of her divinely chosen role but also revealed the trials and sorrows that would become interwoven with her journey to the house of Joseph. The Most Holy Theotokos listened intently to the heavenly messenger’s words, and upon entering the house, uttered her holy vow: “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Nazareth in the 19th century

Nazareth in the 19th century

The most prevalent type of Annunciation icon depicts the scene with embroidery, and is sometimes referred to as the “Annunciation with Thread.” Drawing from an apocryphal source, the story unfolds as follows: the high priests sought to create a new veil for the Holy of Holies within the Jerusalem temple. To achieve this sacred task, they selected virgins of impeccable lineage, virgins who descended from King David. Among these chosen maidens was the Virgin Mary. The priest entrusted her with the scarlet and crimson threads necessary for the veil's creation. The Most Holy Virgin began her work, and at the very moment of the Archangel Gabriel's appearance, she was diligently spinning the crimson thread for the temple curtain. This act of weaving itself becomes symbolic within the iconography. It represents the very weaving of the flesh of the God-Man within the womb of the Mother of God. Furthermore, the thread in the Theotokos’ hands is linked to the expression ‘to pass with a red thread,” signifying the essence, the core meaning of something.

Icon of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Icon of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Another type of iconography of the Annunciation illustrates directly the idea of the Incarnation. This is the “Annunciation with the Child in the Womb.” In the icon, the Archangel and the Mother of God are depicted facing each other. This image reflects the idea that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) and emphasizes the duality of the natures of the Lord Jesus Christ: Divine and human.

Elated by the essence of joy that accompanied the good news, the chosen Virgin Mary sang out, “...and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!” (Luke 1:47).

In response to this radiant joy, the Holy Church proclaims the Theotokos as the Joy of the Comforter, singing praises to Her: “Rejoice, Our Joy!” May the joy that emanates from the Theotokos, our Mistress, find a home within us and become an inseparable part of our being. Thus, we may always rejoice, as the Apostle instructs (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and experience unfailing joy, even in the face of trials (cf. James 1:2).

This material was prepared by the editorial staff of obitel-minsk.ru

Photos from the Internet

Sources used:

1. Rejoice in You. Miraculous Icons of the Mother of God / compiled by N. Dmitrieva. — Moscow, 2004.
2. Intercessor Zealous / Hieromonk Philadelph. Trinity-Sergius Lavra. — Novosibirsk, 1999.
3. Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos / text by Yu. Ruban. — Ed. "Chronograph" - Leningrad, 1991.

March 24, 2024
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