My beloved brothers and sister in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE GLORIOUS AND SOLEMN FEAST DAY OF
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER
Then Mary, filled with joy, "went into the hill country with haste,
into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and
saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth
heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb" (St. Luke 1:39-41).
Saint George (+ after 880), Bishop of Nicomedia and eminent hymnographer, speaks of the prenatal infant John, saying, "The divine Forerunner having recognized Thee as the Mother of God, leapt beforehand in his mother’s womb and proclaimed beforehand Thy great things, O Pure Lady."
Saint Theophanes the Poet (+ 138) also makes mention of the unborn John’s reaction, chanting, "While yet within thy mother’s womb thou wast filled with the Most Holy Spirit and, leaping with gladness, thou hast joyfully announced the fruit of virginity and hast worshipped Him, O Venerable Prophet."
Holy Scripture cites cases of great ones who were sanctified, appointed, or ordained before they were born and known before they were shaped; as in the case of the Forefather Jacob (Genesis 25:23) or the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5).
Saint Ambrose ( +339-397) comments in his work entitled, "Of the Christian Faith," that the Forerunner John, of whom his holy mother testified that while he yet lay in her womb, perceived by the Holy Spirit the PRESENCE OF HIS LORD, and leaped for joy. John, who prophesied that moment, was he in existence or not? He surely was in existence, who worshipped the Master. Indeed, Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice of Mary, but John WAS THE FIRST TO FEEL HIS LORD’S GRACIOUS PRESENCE. Elizabeth heard in the natural manner, HE LEAPT FOR JOY BECAUSE OF THE MYSTERY. She sees Mary’s coming, HE THE COMING OF THE LORD."
The good tidings ("good news") of the Gospel are the good news of the INCARNATE Son of God Who became man, having come down from heaven to earth.
Faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, is the firm foundation or ROCK OF THE Church, according to the Lord’s own words: "Upon this rock I will build My Church" (Saint Matthew 16:18).
With these good news the holy Apostle Mark begins his accounts: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Saint Mark 1:1).
"That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Saint Luke 1:35), the Archangel Gabriel addressed the Virgin Mary. At the Baptism of the Savior, these words were heard: "This is My Beloved Son." The same thing was repeated at the Lord’s Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) (Saint Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
The First Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea was convened for the confirmation of the Truth in the clear awareness of all Christians, as THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, and for this purpose it is THE SYMBOL OF FAITH (the CREED) of the Ecumenical Church.
Being PERFECT GOD, Jesus Christ the Savior is at the same time THE PERFECT MAN. As Man, Jesus Christ was born when for Mary, His mother, "the days were accomplished that she should be delivered" (Saint Luke 2:6). "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him" (Saint Luke 2:40). As Mary’s son, He was "subject unto" her and her spouse (Saint Luke 2:51). As Man He was baptized of John in the Jordan. He went about the cities and villages with the preaching of salvation. Not once before His Resurrection did He encounter a need to prove His humanity to anyone. He experienced HUNGER and THIRST, the need for REST and SLEEP, and He SUFFERED PAINFUL FEELINGS and PHYSICAL SUFFERING.
Living the physical life natural to a man, the Lord also lived the life of the soul as a man. He strengthened his spiritual powers with FASTING AND PRAYER. He experienced the HUMAN FEELINGS of JOY, ANGER, and SORROW. He expressed them outwardly: "He was troubled in spirit" (Saint John 13:21). He SHOWED DISSATISFACTION and SHED TEARS at the death of His friend Lazaros. The Gospels reveal to us A POWERFUL SPIRITUAL BATTLE IN THE Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was taken under guard: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death" (Saint Matthew 26:38), thus did the Lord DESCRIBE THE DATE OF His soul to His Disciples.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes: "If the nature which He received had not had a human mind, then the one who entered into battle with the devil was God Himself; and it was therefore God Who gained the victory. But if God was victorious, the I, who did not participate in the victory at all, do not receive any benefit from it. Therefore, I cannot rejoice over it, for I would then be boasting of someone else’s trophies."
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem states: "If the becoming man was a phantom, then salvation is a dream."
"… And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten
of the Father before all Ages. Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten
not made, One in essence with the Father, through Whom all things were
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and WAS INCARNATED
BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OF THE VIRGIN MARY, AND BECAME Man." (the Creed)
Our Holy Orthodox Church has always guarded the correct teaching of the TWO NATURES (DIVINE AND HUMAN) of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing in this an indispensable condition of faith, without which SALVATION IS IMPOSSIBLE. Over the centuries there have been a number of heretics within and without the Church that attacked the most fundemental truths of our faith. Because of the heresies, the Church formed the Ecumenical Synods to form the dogmas of the Church and, therefore, protect and defend the Orthodox Christian faith from errors. However, the heresies which were overcome in the history of the early Church continue to exist and be taught today in Protestantism; Which refuses to recognize the dogmatic degrees of the Seven Ecumenical Synods of the Authentic Church of Jesus Christ.
What we Orthodox Christians believe should not be a mystery to anyone, for our belief is openly confessed and recited in the Creed at every Divine Liturgy. I find it perplexing when I hear that Orthodox Christians who grow up in the Church are not able to explain or defend what they believe. Sunday after Sunday WE ALL recite the Symbol of faith. How can this be? When some Orthodox Christians are confronted or challenged by either unbelievers or heretics, they literally freeze or become tongue-tied. It is imperative that we pay attention to the Creed, the confession of faith, and use it to educate ourselves and others of our beautiful and authentic faith.
Our unconditional love, honor, and reverence for our Theotokos is not a secret. We believe that God was joined to Man from the very instant of His conception in the womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary, and that He, being PERFECT MAN, is also PERFECT GOD. The Ever-Virgin Mary is TRULY the THEOTOKOS, THE MOTHER OF GOD.
"Gabriel flew down from heaven and came to
Nazareth; and to the Virgin Mary he appeared
and he cried out, ‘REJOICE, O Blessed woman,
for you will conceive a Son, more ancient than
Adam is. He has created the ages, and He
REDEEMS THOSE WHO CRY TO YOU, O PURE ONE,
‘REJOICE!’ (Orthros. Annunciation)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George