Commemorated on March 25th
ANNUNCIATION OF THE THEOTOKOS
Six months after John the Forerunner''s conception, the Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, a town of Galilee, unto Mary the Virgin, who had come forth from the Temple a mature maiden (celebrated Nov 21). According to the tradition handed down by the Fathers, she had been betrothed to Joseph four months. On coming to Joseph''s house, the Archangel declared: "Rejoice, thou Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women".
After some consideration, and turmoil of soul, and fear because of this greeting, the Virgin, when she had finally obtained full assurance concerning God''s unsearchable condescension and the ineffable dispensation that was to take place through her, and believing that all things are possible to the Most High, answered in humility: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word". And at this, the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her all blameless womb, and the Son and Word of God, Who existed before the ages, was conceived past speech and understanding, and became flesh in her immaculate body (Luke 1:26-38).
Bearing in her womb the Uncontainable One, the blessed Virgin went with haste from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea, where Zacharias had his dwelling; for she desired to find Elizabeth her kinswoman and rejoice together with her, because, as she had learned from the Archangel, Elizabeth had conceived in her old age. Furthermore, she wished to tell her of the great things that the Mighty One had been well pleased to bring to pass in her, and she greeted Elizabeth and drew nigh to her. When Elizabeth heard Mary''s greeting, she felt her six month old babe leap in her womb for joy. By leaping thus even before he had beheld the light of life, her babe, St John the Baptist, prophesied of the dawning of the spiritual Sun. Immediately, the aged Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized her as the Mother of her Lord, and with a great voice blessed her and the Fruit that she held within herself The Virgin also, moved by a supernatural rejoicing in the spirit, glorified her God and Saviour, saying: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour", and the rest, as the divine Luke hath recorded (1:39-55).
Today is the fountainhead of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becomes the Virgin''s Son, and Gabriel announces the good tidings of grace; for this cause let us cry to the Theotokos with him: Rejoice, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you.
When the bodiless one learned the secret command, in haste he came and stood before Joseph''s dwelling, and spoke to the maiden who knew not wedlock; the One Who hath bowed the Heavens by His descent is held and contained unchanging wholly in you. Seeing Him receiving the form of a servant in your womb, I stand in awe and cry to you, rejoice, bride unwedded.
To you, the Champion Leader, we your flock dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as you are one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do you deliver us, that we may cry to you, rejoice, bide unwedded.