The Underrated Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.  In one sense, it is more important than Christmas. It is the real feast of Incarnation. It celebrates the moment Very God of Very God confines Himself to the womb of the most holy Mother of God.  It is the reason her veneration is so vital to Orthodoxy – using not just her womb, but her ovum, her chromosomes, her DNA, God became Man.Yet it is the most under-celebrated feast of the year.

If Pascha originally began a fast-free period until after Pentecost (since reduced to a week thanks to the ascendency of ascetism within the Church) and Christmas has a two-week feast, surely Annunciation should fall somewhere in between. Unfortunately, the hierarchs of the Church have been entirely unified in not consulting me about these matters.

I find it odd that one of the developments in the Eastern Church has been to turn the Wednesday and Friday fast given to us by the Holy Apostles into a year with more fasting than non-fasting days. This year there are 213 fasting days and 152 non-fasting days. Nearly 60% of the year is spent fasting. In case you are wondering, I’m not counting fish days or cheesefare days as non-fasting. If it doesn’t involve killing and eating something that walks and breathes air, it’s a fasting day.

Invariably this includes the Annunciation.

When compared to the feasts of the Church the constrast is even starker. Other than the twelve days of Christmas and the Bright Week of Pascha, the feast days are one-day affairs. Of these, the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross, is also a fast day. So we fast even on feast days.

We need to be having Annunciation parties. We need to perkiest, most joyful music. Well, as perky as we get with eighth century tones. But that’s another matter altogether.

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Happiest of Feasts

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw
him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Today is one of the greatest Feasts of the Church. So great, in fact, that I don’t understand why Lent isn’t completely suspended for a day. This is the feast of the Incarnation. Sure it comes to fruition in the Nativity, but this is the day we celebrate that God came to Earth. Today we grapple with the mystery of kenosis. Today the very God of very God, the eternal and incomprehensible chooses the Virgin’s womb for a Temple wherein to dwell.

The incorporeal become corporeal. The Word becomes flesh to dwell among us.

In the midst of all the Easter TV programmes challenging all of the orthodoxies of the Faith, cries of critics and doubters, it is a good thing to rejoice. I also feel sad, because they cannot share the joy. They spend their time trying to dig up ways to prove that Jesus wasn’t really the Jesus of the Gospels. He must be anyone other than who He was, His life told to us by eyewitnesses and faithful transmitted to us by the Holy Evangelists and from them by our Holy Fathers who have gone before us. There must be conspiracies and power plays, intrigue and underhanded dealings. And all of it must be because they knew the story wasn’t true. It was made up much later. Tiresome and sad.

So let us rejoice in the love of God shown to us in the Incarnation. Let us rejoice in so great a salvation.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
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 His mercy
is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered
the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from
their thrones,
And exalted
the lowly.
He has filled
the hungry with good things,
And
the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of
His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.