Mark 9:17-31 + Luke 1:24-38

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we celebrate one of the 12 Great Feasts of our Orthodox Church – the Annunciation of our Holy Lady Theotokos.  We always celebrate this Feast during Lent, but only every 6 or so years do we get to celebrate the Feast on a Sunday. Having this Feast during Lent really makes for a perfect circle – we are preparing ourself to relive our Lord’s Resurrection, and on our journey there we have an opportunity to revisit the beginning of our Lord’s earthly life.

In this very moment – when the Virgin responds to the angel “be it unto me according to your word” – in this moment everything changes. With the conception of Christ in the womb of the Theotokos, God takes unto Himself our created human nature. Until this time, the separation between God and man, which was caused by sin, had no way to be mended. Look at the Old Testament – there was the curse of the law (St Paul’s words) to monitor behavior, and there were rites of sacrifice. Man could not fulfill the law, and the sacrifices did not absolve the people of their sins, but rather (if we use the language of the OT) the sacrifices covered the sins of the people – they were counted as righteous, without the chance of their fallen nature being transformed.

All of this changes with the Annunciation. Now God has taken human nature unto Himself. Now the possibility exists for an entirely new kind of relationship between fallen man and his Heavenly Creator. The Fathers of the Church make this point repeatedly – God becoming man transforms our fallen nature and allows us the opportunity to truly be forgiven and to be entirely reconciled with God. This was God’s plan from the beginning – for us to share in His Life. Sin destroyed this possibility; man was separated from God by an abyss that could not be overcome by any human means. God Himself had to step out and bridge this abyss – this is what He does with the Annunciation. He takes unto Himself all that we are, so that in Him we could overcome sin and be united with Him in the way He desired from the beginning.

We see in the Annunciation the depth of God’s love for us. The Creator of all, the Sustainer of all, deigns to become an infant in the womb of His holy Mother. He lays everything aside to take on the laborious life of a human being, filled with trials and struggles. He didn’t have to do that – he didn’t have to subject Himself to obedience to parents and the oppression of the Romans and the daily struggles of life in this fallen world. He didn’t have to do this – He chose to. He did it in love and for our salvation. Now we can be transformed in a way not possible before the Annunciation – now God can dwell in us because He is one of us.

Christ was, and for all eternity will continue to be, both fully God and fully human. He can relate to everything we go through, because He’s been there – this is God’s love for us. We’re not simply subjects of some tyrant in the sky – God’s intention was never law – God’s desire is relationship. When we approach Him in prayer, in sadness or despair or even joy, we’re in a dialogue in a relationship of love and understanding. God knows who we are, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He calls us to be like Him.

We see, in the Annunciation, 2 images of how we are to be – in both the Theotokos and in Christ. The Mother of God is a perfect icon of what humanity is called to be – subject to our Saviour in all things. All she wants is to please her God, to live in the grace and love of God. She dedicates herself to God from her youth – I’d like to mention here that we often think or hear something about children being too young maybe to really understand the Gospel and relationship with God – the Theotokos shows us otherwise. We should be raising our children fully in the Faith, giving them the opportunity to choose Christ at every moment, to dedicate their lives to God just as the Theotokos did. And her Son, our Christ, He is the visible icon of the invisible God (as the Fathers tell us). We are created in the image of the incarnate Christ – and He comes to show us how it is we are to be. The fullness of human nature is finally revealed to us in Christ.

And this is why I think it’s so beautiful to have this Feast as we prepare for Pascha – during Lent we are evaluating our lives and trying very consciously to mold them after the image of Christ. As we struggle to fulfill the commandments, we are ever becoming more like Christ. The commandments of Christ are not random – they aren’t like the apodictic law of the OT – the words of Christ flow from the very life of God, and as we fulfill them we are aligning our lives with the way of God. Salvation is our relationship with Christ – and this relationship grows and deepens as we become (by grace) more like Him. This reality of personal relationship with God for our transformation and salvation begins today, with the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Today God becomes man, so that we might become gods by grace (St Athanasius) – God becomes man so that we might share in His life for all of eternity.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Matthew Jackson