The Annunciation of the Lord

The Annunciation of the Lord
By
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos

Dear family,

Saturday March 25 will be The Annunciation of the Lord also known as The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also known as the Annunciation or Our Lady or Lady Day in England. It is Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus. He would be the Son of God thus this feast marks his incarnation as a human. Mary is told to name him Jesus meaning Jehovah of God has saved.

1: Scriptural Foundation

26 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”

This is corroborated when an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream. Matthew says

18 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

2: Other Ancient Manuscript upon Which Luke May Have Drawn for His Gospel

Manuscript 4Q246
Manuscript 4Q246 of the Dead Sea Scrolls reads:

32 This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule as King over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end to his Kingdom. 35 In answer the angel said to her: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. And for that reason the one who is born will be called holy, God’s Son .
[X] shall be great upon the earth. O king, all people shall make peace, and all shall serve him. He shall be called the son of the Great God, and by his name shall he be hailed as the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High.

The similarity in content is such that “it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Luke is dependent in some way, whether directly or indirectly, on this long lost text from Qumran”.

3: Muslim Tradition

In the Quran

The Annunciation is described in the Qur’an
45 Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;”
Muslim tradition holds that the Annunciation took place during the month of Ramadan.[

4: History of Where the Christian Celebration Comes From

An early date was described for this feast as it is appears in the sermons of Athanasius and Gregory Thaumaturgus. However those works are believed to be spurious. However The Feast of the Annunciation was definitely being celebrated as early as the fourth or fifth century. When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced Dionysius Exiguous in 525 he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25. This was because according to Catholic theology, the era of grace began with the incarnation of Christ. It is first mentioned in a canon of the Council of Toledo in 656 where it was described as celebrated throughout the Church. The Council of Constantinople in 692 forbade the celebration of any festivals during Lent with the exception of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) and the Feast of the Annunciation. The Synod of Worcester England in 1240 forbade all servile work on this day thus making it a day of rest. It was celebrated as New Years Day in many pre modern Christian countries. The holiday was first moved to January 1 in France Charles IX in 1564 with the Edict of Roussillon. In England the New Year was e celebrated as Lady’s Day until 1752 when it followed the French and switched to January 1

5: Who is Dionysius Exiguous? (470-544AD)
Was a 6th century monk whose name in Latin means Dionysius the Humble. Born in Scythia Minor (probably in the modern Dobruja region in Romania and Bulgaria. He was a member of a community of Scythian monks from Tomis the major city Scythia Minor. . Dionysius is best known as the inventor of the Anno Domini (AD) era, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianized) Julian calendar. Some churches adopted his computus (calculation) for the dates of Easter.

From about 500 he lived in Rome, where, as a learned member of the Roman Curia he translated from Greek into Latin 401 ecclesiastical canons, including the Apostolical canons; the decrees of the councils of Nicaea Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis; and a collection of the decretals of the popes from Siricius to Anastasius II. These Collectiones canonum Dionysianae had great authority in the West, and continues to guide church administrations. Dionysius also wrote a treatise on elementary mathematics.
The author of a continuation of Dionysus’s Computus, writing in 616, described Dionysius as a “most learned abbot of the city of Rome”, and the Venerable Bede accorded him the honorific abbas, which could be applied to any monk, especially a senior and respected monk, and does not necessarily imply that Dionysius ever headed a monastery; indeed, Dionysius’s friend Cassiodorus stated in Institutiones that he was still a monk late in life.

6: Date Celebrated

Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Traditions

The feast of the Annunciation is usually held on March 25 as will be the year. In the Catholic Church, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgical calendars, the feast is moved if necessary to prevent it from falling during Holy Week or Easter Week or on a Sunday. To avoid a Sunday before Holy Week, the next day (26 March) would be observed instead. In years such as 2016 when 25 March falls within Holy Week or Easter Week, the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the Octave of Easter i.e., the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter

Orthodox

In Eastern Orthodox churches, the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25 on the Julian calendar, is one of the twelve “Great Feasts” of the liturgical year, and is among the eight of them that are counted as “feasts of the Lord”. In Greek, the Annunciation is known as the “Good Tidings” or “Evangelism” (Euangelismos). The traditional hymn (troparion) for the feast the Annunciation goes back to St Athanasius It runs:

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And 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!”

As the action initiating the Incarnation of Christ Annunciation has such an important place in Orthodox Christian theology that the festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on the feast, even if it falls on Great and Holy Friday the day when Christ’s Crucifixion is remembered. Indeed, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Great and Holy Friday only when the latter coincides with the feast of the Annunciation. If the Annunciation falls on Pascha (Easter Sunday) itself, a coincidence which is called Kyriopascha, then it is celebrated jointly with the Resurrection, which is the focus of Easter. Due to these and similar rules, the rubrics surrounding the celebration of the feast are the most complex of all in Orthodox Christian liturgics.

St Ephraim taught that the date of the conception of Jesus Christ fell on 10 Nisan on the Hebrew Calendar, the day in which the Passover lamb was selected according to Exodus 12. Some years 10 Nisan falls on March 25, which is the traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation and is an official holiday in Lebanon.

7: When Mary spoke those few words, human history was forever changed
“What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

8: How Does This Apply To Us Today in the 21st Century?

In the Annunciation of the Lord we are invited into a mystery i.e. the mystery of Mary’s cooperation in God’s plan and also our own cooperation in God’s plan. It is a reminder that in the midst of challenges we face as Christians in a culture which seems to have forgotten God we can celebrate the heart of the Christian message which is conversion through Jesus Christ.

If we truly understand this great event of the Annunciation we will see it as our path to salvation and cultural recovery. The Virgin Mary of Nazareth is our example of how to live in our real lives in a real world. When the angel Gabriel appears with a special message and mission for Mary she immediately says yes without hesitation. Likewise we too when called by God to the call God has for each one of us need to answer yes without hesitation knowing and believing that nothing is impossible with God. Again Mary is the model for us. Let us take a look at her response to Gabriel’s message.

“I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word.

Wow in Mary’s words I believe we discover the of the Christian vocation and walk. Again we hear the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa ringing out:
What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

This is conversion as we like Mary say yes to God and yield to his plan for each of us. When Mary said yes to God’s plan for her human history was changed forever. For through the incarnation we honor today Mary conceives and brings forth a son that will be the Savior of the world. Thus it brings the hope of a new day dawning and a new beginning.

The words Mary speaks come from I believe a deep spiritual reservoir within the heart of a young Jewish girl in love with her God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Mary’s yes in Latin is Fiat meaning “Let it be done”. I believe it is spoken from a heart filled with love for God

In the Bible the heart is the center, and the core of our being. It is the place where our deepest identity is rooted and from which our fundamental choices in life are made. In Mary’s case it comes from a humble heart. Mary is not full of herself, nor self protected neither is she cynical. Instead she allows herself to be emptied in order that she might be filled. She is therefore also able to completely surrender herself in love in order to love. Mary realized it is about selfless. Therefore she is holy and shows us how we can become holy too.

In the original languages, the words in Holy Scripture which are translated into the English word “holy” mean set apart or consecrated, entirely dedicated to God´s service, given over to God and His worship. If we want to be holy, we need to explore the meaning of these words and make them our own. We are also called to be set apart for the living God. We are to make a place for Him within ourselves and within the world. We are to bear His message through a lifestyle that radiates His love. It is only by being set apart and consecrated that our own personal histories can be truly transformed. This happens through conversion, or “metanoia”, which, in Greek, means “to change.” Our hope for change, for becoming holy, is to open our lives to the One who is the source of all goodness and holiness, Jesus Christ. We are called to respond to His invitation, to say “Yes” to a relationship with Him.

This is what Mary´s Fiat is all about. In saying Yes to God, as Mary did, we are able to discover the path to conversion, to holiness, to authentic spirituality. Our call to embrace the Fiat and to make it our own is not a formula for easy spiritual growth, nor is it the first in a series of steps that lead to solving the problems of life. The spiritual life is a path, a Way, and it involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord.

He has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary´s Fiat, her Magnificat, and her way of life. When we embrace Mary´s Prayer and make it our own, we allow the Love that Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us, too. Each of us can say “Yes” to God, right now, wherever we are. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a Fiat of surrendered love. When we do so, our positive response marks the beginning of a participation in the very life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of the Most High and enter into the life of the living God. In Him we find our deepest identity, our real selves, through our participation in the One who made us, who redeems us, and who transforms us by His continual grace
.
Conversion begins when we say Fiat with our words and our deeds. It introduces to us a new and dynamic way of living with God, and in God. As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again, made new and completed. This holy exchange-our life for His-is the essence of the spiritual journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, true spirituality is about surrender.

Mary teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary´s way is to become an ark within, where the same God who became incarnate within her takes up His residence in us. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say “Yes” to Him. Mary invites us to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God´s Love, for the sake of world.

It is an invitation to live redemptively. The ongoing re-creative and redemptive work of God´s love continues through us as we learn how to become arks, or dwelling places, through which Incarnate Love comes alive for all those around us. We enter into Christ´s Incarnation as we respond the same way Mary did: “Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel´s visit. She recognized who was speaking. She listened, received and responded. In so doing, she shows us the way to respond to the Lord’s call in our own lives. God initiates a relationship and we respond in surrender to Him. This dynamic, this heavenly road, leads to a dialogue, a conversation, a way of life. By saying yes, through our own Fiat, we are set apart. Consecrated. Made holy. Mary shows us that way.

In summation then when we yield as Mary did new beginnings will begin within us and out into our world. It is the message of conversion which will prepare us for Easter and then the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That is what I believe we can learn from the Annunciation of the Lord and the example Mary sets forth for us here, On Saturday when we commemorate that annunciation may we reflect on all that has been shared here. Let us ask God’s help through the Holy Spirit to yield even as Mary did so God can do great things through even as he did Mary, Then when we encounter the ordinariness of life we will be prepared to be used and to be a blessing like Mary.
As always any thoughts or comments welcomed
God bless you all

Brother Lawrence Damien Cos

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