Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012 - 4th Sunday of Great Lent



FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:

Annunciation of the Theotokos

Δ΄ ΝΗΣΤΕΙΩΝ. Ο ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΜΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΥΠΕΡΑΓΙΑΣ ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΗΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΥ ΜΑΡΙΑΣ.

READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:

The Reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56
In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 1.39-49, 56
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν ᾿Ιούδα, καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν ᾿Ελισάβετ. καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετ τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς· καὶ ἐπλήσθη Πνεύματος ῾Αγίου ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετ καὶ ἀνεφώνησε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξὶ καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Κυρίου μου πρός με; ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ Κυρίου. Καὶ εἶπε Μαριάμ· Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον καὶ ἠγαλλίασε τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσί με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί· ὅτι ἐποίησέ μοι μεγαλεῖα ὁ δυνατὸς καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. ῎Εμεινε δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡσεὶ μῆνας τρεῖς καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 2:11-18
BRETHREN, he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, "I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I, and the children God has given me. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Πρὸς Ἑβραίους 2:11-18
Ἀδελφοί, ὁ ἁγιάζων καὶ οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι, ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες· διʼ ἣν αἰτίαν οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν, λέγων, Ἀπαγγελῶ τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου, ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε. Καὶ πάλιν, Ἐγὼ ἔσομαι πεποιθὼς ἐπʼ αὐτῷ. Καὶ πάλιν, Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ τὰ παιδία ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ θεός. Ἐπεὶ οὖν τὰ παιδία κεκοινώνηκεν σαρκός καὶ αἵματος, καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχεν τῶν αὐτῶν, ἵνα διὰ τοῦ θανάτου καταργήσῃ τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τὸν διάβολον, καὶ ἀπαλλάξῃ τούτους, ὅσοι φόβῳ θανάτου διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῇν ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δουλείας. Οὐ γὰρ δήπου ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται, ἀλλὰ σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται. Ὅθεν ὤφειλεν κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, ἵνα ἐλεήμων γένηται καὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεὺς τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ. Ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς, δύναται τοῖς πειραζομένοις βοηθῆσαι.

The Reading is from Luke 1:24-38
In those days, Elizabeth the wife of Zacharias conceived and for five months she hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord had done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 1.24-38
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις συνέλαβεν ᾿Ελισάβετ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ, καὶ περιέκρυβεν ἑαυτὴν μῆνας πέντε,λέγουσα ὅτι οὕτω μοι πεποίηκεν ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἡμέραις αἷς ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν τὸ ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις. ᾿Εν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρέτ,πρὸς παρθένον μεμνηστευμένην ἀνδρί, ᾧ ὄνομα ᾿Ιωσήφ, ἐξ οἴκου Δαυΐδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.καὶ εἰσελθὼν ὁ ἄγγελος πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπε· χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη· ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ· εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν.ἡ δὲ ἰδοῦσα διεταράχθη ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος.καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ· μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ· εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ.καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦν.οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυῒδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ,καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον ᾿Ιακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.εἶπε δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον· πῶς ἔσται μοι τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω;καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ· Πνεῦμα ῞Αγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι· διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται υἱὸς Θεοῦ.καὶ ἰδοὺ ᾿Ελισάβετ ἡ συγγενής σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνειληφυῖα υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ·ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ πᾶν ῥῆμα.εἶπε δὲ Μαριάμ· ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη Κυρίου· γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:

Τῇ ΚΕ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, ὁ Εὐαγγελισμὸς τῆς Ὑπεραγίας Δεσποίνης ἡμῶν Θεοτόκου καὶ Ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας.
Ἤγγειλεν Υἱὸν Ἄγγελος τῇ Παρθένῳ,
Πατρὸς μεγίστης Βουλῆς μέγαν.
Γήθεο τῇ Μαρίῃ ἔφατ' Ἄγγελος εἰκάδι πέμπτῃ.

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 (see 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, Saint 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 Savior, saying: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour," and the rest, as the divine Luke hath recorded (1:39-55)

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Σήμερον τῆς σωτηρίας ἡμῶν τὸ Κεφάλαιον, καὶ τοῦ ἀπ' αἰῶνος Μυστηρίου ἡ φανέρωσις, ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου γίνεται, καὶ Γαβριὴλ τὴν χάριν εὐαγγελίζεται, Διὸ σὺν αὐτῷ τὴ Θεοτόκω βοήσωμεν, Χαῖρε Κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.
Today is the fountainhead of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Virgin's Son, and Gabriel announceth the good tidings of grace; for this cause, let us cry to the Mother of God with him: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Τὴ ὑπερμάχω στρατηγῶ τὰ νικητήρια, ὡς λυτρωθεῖσα τῶν δεινῶν εὐχαριστήρια, ἀναγράφω σοὶ ἡ Πόλις σου Θεοτόκε, Ἀλλ' ὡς ἔχουσα τὸ κράτος ἀπροσμάχητον, ἐκ παντοίων μὲ κινδύνων ἐλευθέρωσον, ἵνα κράζω σοί, Χαῖρε νύμφη ἀνύμφευτε.
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"

Ο συνδυασμός των δυο γεγονότων που γιορτάζομε σήμερα, του Ευαγγελισμού της Θεοτόκου και της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως, αποτελεί βαθύτατο συμβολισμό της εννοίας της ελευθερίας, που δεν είναι ό,τι απλώς λέμε πολιτική ελευθερία κι εθνική ανεξαρτησία, αλλά "της σωτηρίας ημων το κεφάλαιον". Η ελευθερία στην ουσία της είν' έννοια ηθική και πνευματική, ρίζα της προσωπικότητος του ανθρώπου. Η πολιτική ελευθερία κι η εθνική ανεξαρτησία είν' εξωτερικές καταστάσεις· η ηθική και πνευματική ελευθερία είναι εσωτερική στον άνθρωπο ζωή και δύναμη. Όσοι μπόρεσαν ν' αντιταχθούν σε βαρβαρικές επιδρομές, όσοι στάθηκαν ικανοί να ιδρύσουν ελεύθερα πολιτεύματα ξεκίνησαν πρωτ' αρχή από έναν ευαγγελισμό που άκουσαν μέσα τους και στηρίχθηκαν επάνω σε μια εσωτερική ελευθερία, στην ηθική και πνευματική ελευθερία, που είναι πνοή του Θεού μέσα στον άνθρωπο - "ου δε το πνεύμα Κυρίου εκεί ελευθερία".

Ὁ Εὐαγγελισμὸς τῆς Θεοτόκου καὶ Ἐπέτειος Ἐθνικῆς Παλιγγενεσίας 1821
Εἶναι τὸ χαρμόσυνο μήνυμα τῆς θείας ἐνσάρκωσης, ποὺ μὲ τόσο σαφῆ τρόπο μας τὸ παρουσιάζει ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς Λουκᾶς στὸ Εὐαγγέλιό του (κεφ. Α´ στίχ. 26-38). Τὴν ἡμέρα αὐτή, ὁ θεόσταλτος ἀρχάγγελος Γαβριὴλ παρουσιάζεται καὶ λέει στὴν Παρθένα Μαρία ὅτι θὰ γεννήσει υἱό, ποὺ θὰ εἶναι ὁ Σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου. Ἀξίζει, ὅμως, νὰ δοῦμε πὼς οἱ ἐμπνευσμένοι ὑμνῳδοὶ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας μας ἔψαλαν τὸ κοσμοσωτήριο ἄγγελμα: «Σήμερον χαρᾶς Εὐαγγέλια παρθενικὴ πανήγυρις τὰ κάτω τοῖς ἄνω συνάπτεται· ὁ Ἀδὰμ καινουργεῖται ἡ Εὔα τῆς πρώτης λύπης ἐλευθεροῦται καὶ ἡ σκηνὴ τῆς καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς οὐσίας τῇ θεώσει τοῦ προσληφθέντος φυράματος ναὸς Θεοῦ κεχρημάτικεν. Ὦ μυστήριον! Ὁ τρόπος τῆς κενώσεως ἄγνωστος, ὁ τρόπος τῆς συλλήψεως ἄφραστος. Ἄγγελος λειτουργεῖ τῷ θαύματι, παρθενικὴ γαστὴρ τὸν Υἷον ὑποδέχεται, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον καταπέμπεται, Πατὴρ ἄνωθεν εὐδοκεῖ, καὶ τὸ συνάλλαγμα κατὰ κοινὴν πραγματεύεται βούλησιν, ἐν ᾧ καὶ δι᾿ οὗ σωθέντες, συνῳδᾷ τῷ Γαβριήλ, πρὸς τὴν Παρθένον βοήσωμεν· χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ, ἐξ ἧς ἡ σωτηρία, Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, τὴν καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς προσλαβόμενος φύσιν πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ἐπανήγαγεν».

Ὁ Ὅσιος Σεννούφιος ὁ Σημειοφόρος
Ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά. Ἴσως εἶναι ὁ ἴδιος με τὸν ἀσκητὴ τῆς Νιτρίας Σεννούφιο.

Οἱ Ἁγίες Πελαγία καὶ Θεοδοσία
Μαρτύρησαν διὰ ξίφους.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Μάρτυς ἀπὸ τοὺς δήμιους
Αὐτὸς γνώρισε τὸν Χριστὸ καὶ μαρτύρησε ἀφοῦ τὸν ἔκλεισαν σὲ βρωμερὴ ἀπομόνωση καὶ πέθανε μᾶλλον ἀπὸ ἀσφυξία.

The Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
When Mary the Virgin was about fourteen years old, the Archangel Gabriel came to Joseph's dwelling, where she was living, and said to her, 'Rejoice, thou Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.' Receiving assurance that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God Himself, she answered in humility, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' Immediately, the Holy Spirit came upon her, the power of the Most High overshadowed her, and the Incarnation, long awaited by the whole creation, took place: He who contains the whole universe consented to be contained in the womb of one woman, the most holy Theotokos.
The Church teaches us that it was within the holy Virgin's power to refuse the divine conception: her knowing and willing acceptance, the consummation of the faith of the whole righteous remnant of Israel, shows us that our very salvation is the fruit of the cooperation (synergia)of human faithfulness with God's saving grace.
Carrying in her womb the Savior of the Universe, the Virgin went to the hills of Judea to stay with her kinswoman Elizabeth, who six months before had conceived in her old age (by Zacharias the priest) St John the Forerunner. As the holy Virgin approached, the child Jophn leaped in his mother's womb for joy, prophesying the coming of Emmanuel. Feeling the prophesy, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and blessed the holy Mary and the fruit of her womb. And Mary in turn glorified God, saying 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior' (Luke ch. 1).

New Confessor/Hieromartyr Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow (1925)
Born in 1865, he was tonsured a monk in 1891, and consecrated a Bishop in 1891. From 1900, he was Bishop of Alaska, with oversight of the Church throughout North America. In America, he consecrated the first Orthodox monastery on the continent and worked tirelessly to unite all ethnic groups as one flock. In 1907 he was made Bishop of Yaroslavl and returned to Russia.
In 1917, he was elected to be the first Patriarch of Moscow since the abolition of the Patriarchate by Tsar Peter the Great more than 200 years before. Almost immediately, the Russian Church was plunged into new and terrible persecution as an atheist and totalitarian government seized control. Patriarch Tikhon always sought not to quarrel with the Communist government, but his refusal to deny his faith or his Church marked him in their eyes as an enemy. In 1925 he died under mysterious circumstances, and is generally thought to have been murdered by the Soviets. He is commemorated as a Confessor, and by many as a Martyr also.
Note: because his commemoration falls on the Feast of the Annunciation, his service is usually transferred to the day before or after the Feast.

Menologion 3.0
THE ANNUNCIATION (BLAGOVESCHENIE) OF OUR MOST BLESSED LADY MOTHER OF GOD AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY

Sermon of Sainted Proklos, Patriarch of Constantinople. Our present gathering in honour of the MostHoly Virgin inspires me, brethren, to say of Her a word of praise, of benefit also for those come unto this churchly solemnity. It comprises a praise of women, a glorying of their gender, which (glory) is brought it by Her, She Who is at one same time both Mother, and Virgin. O desired and wondrous gathering! Celebrate, O nature, that wherein honour be rendered to Woman; rejoice, O human race, that wherein the Virgin be glorified. "For when sin did abound, grace did superabound" (Rom. 5: 20). The Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary hath gathered us here, She the pure treasure of virginity, the intended paradise of Second Adam, -- the locus, wherein was accomplished the co-uniting of natures, wherein was affirmed the Counsel of salvific reconciliation.
Whoever is it that ever saw, whoever heard, that within a womb the Limitless God would make habitation, Whom the Heavens cannot circumscribe, Whom the womb of a Virgin limiteth not!?
He born of woman is not only God and He is not only Man: This One born made woman, being the ancient gateway of sin, into the gateway of salvation: where evil poured forth its poison, bringing on disobedience, there the Word made for Himself a living temple, bringing in thither obedience; from whence the arch-sinner Cain sprang forth, there without seed was born Christ the Redeemer of the human race. The Lover-of-Mankind did not disdain to be born of woman, since this bestowed His life. He was not subject to impurity, being settled within the womb, which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. If perchance this Mother did not remain a Virgin, then that born of Her might be a mere man, and the birth would be no wise miraculous; but since She after birth remained a Virgin, then how is He Who is born indeed -- not God? It is an inexplicable mystery, since in an inexplicable manner was born He Who without hindrance went through doors when they were locked. When confessing in Him the co-uniting of two natures, Thomas cried out: "My Lord, and my God!" (Jn. 20: 28).
The Apostle Paul says, that Christ is "to the Jews indeed scandal, and to the Gentiles yet folly" (1 Cor. 1: 23): they did not perceive the power of the mystery, since it was incomprehensible to the mind: "for had they understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 2: 8). If the Word had not settled within the womb, then the flesh would not have ascended with Him onto the Divine Throne; if for God it were disdainful to enter into the womb, which He created, then the Angels too would have disdained service to mankind.
That One, Who by His nature was not subject to sufferings, through His love for us subjected Himself to many a suffering. We believe, that Christ not through some gradual ascent towards the Divine nature was made God, but being God, through His mercy He was made Man. We do not say: "a man made God"; but we confess, that God was incarnated and made Man. His Servant was chosen for Himself as Mother by That One Who, in His essence did not have mother, and Who, through Divine foresight having appeared upon the earth in the image of man, does not have here father. How one and the same is He both without father, and without mother, in accord with the words of the Apostle (Heb. 7: 3)? If He -- be only a man, then He cannot be without mother -- but actually He had a Mother. If He -- be God only, then He cannot be without Father -- but in fact He has the Father. And yet as God the Creator He has not mother, and as Man He has not father.
We can be persuaded in this by the very name of the Archangel, making annunciation to Mary: his name -- is Gabriel. What does this name mean? -- it means: "God and man". Since That One about Whom he announced is God and Man, then his very name points beforehand to this miracle, so that with faith be accepted the deed of the Divine dispensation.
To save people would be impossible for a mere man, since every man has need in the Saviour: "for all, -- says Saint Paul, -- have sinned, and come short the Glory of God" (Rom. 3: 23). Since sin subjects the sinner to the power of the devil, and the devil subjects him to death, then our condition did become extremely hapless: there was no sort of way to be delivered from death. There were sent physicians, i.e. the prophets, but they could only the more clearly point out the malady. What did they do? When they saw, that the illness was beyond human skill, they summoned from Heaven the Physician; one of them said "Lord, bend the heavens, and come down" (Ps. 143 [144]: 5); others cried out: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shalt be healed" (Jer. 17: 14); "restore Thine power, and come yet to save us" (Ps. 79 [80]: 3). And yet others: "For if God truly be settled with man upon the earth" (3 [1] Kings 8: 27); "speedily send before Thine tender mercy, O Lord, for we are brought very low" (Ps. 78 [79]: 8). Others said: "O woe to me, my soul! For the pious art perished from the earth, and of the upright amongst men there is none" (Mich. 7: 2). "O God, in help attend to me, O Lord, shield me with Thine help" (Ps. 69 [70]: 1). "If there be delay, endure it, for He that cometh shalt come, and not tarry" (Hab. 2: 3). "Perishing like a lost sheep: seek out Thine servant, who doth hope on Thee" (Ps. 118 [119]: 176). "For God wilt come, our God, and wilt not keep silence" (Ps. 49 [50]: 3). That One, Who by nature is Lord, did not disdain human nature, enslaved by the sinister power of the devil, the merciful God would not accede for it to be forever under the power of the devil, the Ever-Existing One came and gave in ransom His Blood; for the redemption of the race of man from death He gave up His Body, which He had accepted of the Virgin, He delivered the world from the curse of the law, annihilating death by His death. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law", -- exclaims Saint Paul (Gal. 3: 13).
Thus know, that our Redeemer is not simply a mere man, since all the human race was enslaved to sin. But He likewise is not God only, non-partaking of human nature. He had body, since if He had not clothed Himself in me, He then likewise should not have saved me. But, having settled within the womb of the Virgin, He clothed Himself in my fate, and within this womb He perfected a miraculous change: He bestowed the Spirit and received a body, That One only indeed (dwelling) with the Virgin and (born) of the Virgin. And so, Who is He, made manifest to us? The Prophet David doth point it out for thee in these words: "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord" (Ps. 117 [118]: 26). But tell us even more clearly, O prophet, Who is He? The Lord is the God of Hosts, says the prophet: "God is the Lord, and hath revealed Himself unto us" (Ps. 117 [118]: 27). "The Word was made flesh" (Jn. 1: 14): there were co-united the two natures, and the union remained without mingling.
He came to save, but had also to suffer. What has the one in common with the other? A mere man cannot save; and God in only His nature cannot suffer. By what means was done the one and the other? Wherein that He, Emmanuel, being God, was made also Man; both this, that what He was, He saved by, -- and this, that what He was made, He suffered as. Wherefore, when the Church beheld, that the Jewish throng had crowned Him with thorns, bewailing the violence of the throng, -- it said: "Daughters of Zion, go forth and behold the crown, of which is crowned He of His mother" (Sng. 3: 11). He wore the crown of thorns and destroyed the judgement to suffering from the thorns. He Only is That One both in the bosom of the Father and in the womb of the Virgin; He Only is That One -- in the arms of His Mother and in the wings of the winds (Ps. 103 [104]: 3); He, to Whom the Angels bowed down in worship, at that same time reclined at table with publicans. Upon Him the Seraphim dared not to gaze, and at the same time Pilate pronounced sentence upon Him. He -- is That One and Same, Whom the servant did smite and before whom did tremble all creation. He was nailed to the Cross and ascended to the Throne of Glory, -- He was placed in the tomb and He stretched out the heavens like a skin (Ps. 103 [104]: 2), -- He was numbered amidst the dead and He emptied hell; here upon the earth, they cursed at Him as a transgressor, -- there in Heaven, they exclaimed Him glory as the All-Holy. What an incomprehensible mystery! I see the miracles, and I confess, that He -- is God; I see the sufferings, and I cannot deny, that He -- is Man. Emmanuel opened up the doors of nature, as man, and preserved unharmed the seal of virginity, as God: He emerged from the womb thus as He entered through the announcing; the same wondrously was He both born and conceived: without passion He entered, and without impairment He emerged, as concerning this doth say the Prophet Ezekiel: "He returned me back the way of the gates of the outer sanctuaries, looking upon the east: and these had been shut. And saith the Lord to me: son of man, these gates shalt be closed, and not open, and no one go through them: for the Lord God of Israel, He Only, shalt enter and come forth, and they wilt be shut" (Ez. 44: 1-2). Here -- it clearly indicates the Holy Virgin and Mother of God Mary. Let cease all contention, and let the Holy Scripture enlighten our reason, so that we too receive the Heavenly Kingdom unto all eternity. Amen.

THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:

1. THE ANNUNCIATION
When the All-Holy Virgin completed the fourteenth year after her birth and was entering her fifteenth year, after having spent eleven years of living and serving in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could not remain in the Temple but was required to be betrothed and enter into marriage. What a great surprise to the priests was the answer of the All-Holy Virgin that she had dedicated her life to God and that she desired to remain a Virgin until death, not wanting to enter into marriage with anyone! Then, according to Divine Providence, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, under the inspiration of God, and in agreement with the other priests, gathered twelve unwed men from the Tribe of David to betroth the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and to care for her. She was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth who was her kinsman. In the house of Joseph, the All-Holy Virgin continued to live as she did in the Temple of Solomon, occupying her time in the reading of Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in Godly-thoughts, in fasting and in handiwork. She rarely went anywhere outside the house nor was she interested in worldly things and events. She spoke very little to anyone, if at all, and never without special need. More frequently she communicated with both of Joseph's daughters. When the fullness of time had come, as prophesied by Daniel the Prophet, and when God was pleased to fulfill His promise to the banished Adam and to the Prophets, the great Archangel Gabriel appeared in the chamber of the All-Holy Virgin and, as some priestly writers wrote, precisely at that same moment when she held open the book of the Prophet Isaiah and was contemplating his great prophecy: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son!" (Isaiah 7:13). Gabriel appeared in all of his angelic brightness and saluted her: "Rejoice, highly favored one! The Lord is with you" (St. Luke 1:28), and the rest in order as it is written in the Gospel of the saintly Luke. With this angelic annunciation and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin, the salvation of mankind and restoration of all creation began. The history of the New Testament was opened by the words of the Archangel Gabriel: "Rejoice, highly favored one" This is to imply that the New Testament was to signify joy to mankind and to all created things. It is from this that the Annunciation is considered not only a great feast, but a joyful feast as well.

2. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYRS PELAGIA, THEODOSIA AND DULA
These three holy women suffered for the Lord. After imprisonment and sufferings both Pelagia and Theodosia were beheaded. St. Dula, who was a servant girl, suffered alone in the city of Nicomedia. These three white roses, watered by the blood of the martyrs, were transplanted by God into His heavenly garden.

HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
(The Theotokos)
O WHAT WONDERFUL NEWS: REJOICE, ALL-PURE ONE,
FOR US, YOU GAVE BIRTH TO
CHRIST!
O JOYFUL NEWS: REJOICE O VIRGIN,
RADIANT DOVE!
REJOICE O MARY, REJOICE, O ONE FULL OF GRACE,
YOU, THE GOLDEN GATE!
O BURNING BUSH, UNCONSUMED,
THE DAWN OF NEW SPLENDOR!
GABRIEL COMPOSES THE WORDS, AND HE HIMSELF REJOICES,
THE ANNUNCIATION HE PROCLAIMS!
PROCLAIMS THE ANNUNCIATION, ALL OF HEAVEN LISTENS,
YOUR SOUL TREMBLES!
IN THE TEMPLE YOU SERVED, TO GOD YOU CONSECRATED YOURSELF,
YOU BECAME THE TEMPLE!
REJOICE, O PURE ONE, HEAVENLY BRIDE,
YOU ARE THE ROYAL THRONE!
REJOICE, O HUMBLE ONE, TO THE HUMBLE ONE, YOU
WILL GIVE BIRTH,
AND REGENERATE THE WORLD!
REJOICE, O OBEDIENT ONE, GOD HEARD YOU
AND CROWNED YOU WITH GLORY!
REJOICE, O TEARFUL ONE, BY TEARS SOFTENED,
BY THE SPIRIT GLISTENING!
REJOICE, O POOR ONE, BUT THE WEALTHIEST ONE
AND BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN!
FOR US, PLEAD JOY, FROM CHRIST YOUR SON,
O VIRGIN, ALL-PURE ONE!


REFLECTION
Abba Athanasius was asked by some: "How is it that the Son is equal to the Father?" He answered, "Just as there are two eyes but one sight." The response is admirable. To this we can add: just as there are two ears but one hearing. The same is with all three Divine Hypostases: just as there are three candles but one and the same light.

CONTEMPLATION
To contemplate the All-Holy Virgin Mary:
1. How she served God for eleven years in the Temple humbly, obediently and devotedly;
2. How she served God in her chamber in Nazareth, humbly, obediently and devotedly;
3. How humbly, obediently and devotedly she received the Divine Annunciation from the Archangel Gabriel.

HOMILY
About the omnipotent Word of God
"For nothing will be impossiblefor God" (St. Luke 1:37). "Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Until
God spoke, there was no light. Nor was there anyone who could know what light was, until God spoke, and light came into being. In the same manner, when God spoke, then water and the dry land came into existence, the firmament of the heavens, vegetation, animals and finally man. Until God spoke, none of this existed nor was there anyone, except God, Who could know that all of this could exist. By the power of His word, God created all that is created on earth and in the heavens. Whatever God wanted to exist and spoke that it be, must be and it cannot but be, for the word of God is irresistible and creative. The creation of the world is a great miracle of the word of God.
Having created all things, God again, by His word, established the order of creation and the manner of behavior and relationship of creatures one with another. This order and manner which God established is a great miracle of God's word. There exists an order and manner among created things, visible and comprehensible for us people; and there also exists an order and manner, invisible and incomprehensible. According to that invisible and incomprehensible order and manner, which is a mystery in the Holy Trinity, there have occurred and are occurring those manifestations which people call miracles. One such manifestation is the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the All-Holy Virgin Mary without a husband [The Virgin Birth]. This appears like an interruption in the visible and comprehensible order and manner but it is never an interruption for the invisible and incomprehensible order and manner. This birth, truly, is a great miracle; perhaps the greatest miracle that was ever revealed to us mortals. But the entire created world is a miracle, and all the visible and comprehensible order and manner is a miracle, and altogether these miracles came about by the word of God; therefore, much in the same way the Lord was conceived in the Virgin's womb. Both one and the other was all brought about by the power and word of God. That is why the wonderful Gabriel replied to the question of the All-Pure One which is the question of all generations: "How can this be?" (St. Luke 1:34), and he answered her: "For nothing will be impossible for God" (St. Luke 1:37).
O Lord God, our Creator, Immortal and Existing Miracle-Worker, enlighten our minds that we no longer doubt, but believe and enlighten our tongue that it not question You, but praise You.