Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gabriel, the Joyful Evangelist

"I am Gabriel the one who stands before God: and I have been sent to speak to you, and to evangelize to you these things."

Gabriel, the head messenger (as Archangel means), we celebrate today as we take leave of the great Feast of the Annunciation and resume our walk towards Golgotha.  He is the greatest messenger of all the archangels, for he bore glad tidings of two great births, the Forerunner and the Savior.  His mission is stated simply in his opening words to Zacharias: "I have been evangelize to you."  For this is what Gabriel truly does: he comes to announce the Good News, the Gospel.  He comes to evangelize (εὐαγγελίσασθαί).  Such a description fits even more with his message to she who would become the Theotokos:

"Then in the month the sixth was sent the angel Gabriel by God to a town of Galilee, of the name Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man, of the name Joseph, out of the house of David: and the name of the virgin was Mary.  And entering the angel to her said, 'Rejoice, full-of-grace: the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women....Do not fear, Mary: for you have found grace with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and you will bear a son, and you will call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and Son of the Most High He will be called.'"

This is the first revelation of the details of the Gospel: what had been told before in figures and shadows, in intimations and prophecies, is now proclaimed in detail.  What was before seen in a mirror darkly is now seen in the light: the one graced by God will bear the Son of the Most High when the Holy Spirit descends on her, and the Son of the Most High will be named Jesus.  Even the name Jesus means either "salvation" (Yeshua, ישועה) or "God saves" (Yehoshua, יהושע); even the name alone is an announcement of the Gospel.  Since Gabriel is the first evangelist, his first word to Mary is all the more proper: "Rejoice!"  He says, "Rejoice, for I announce salvation!  Do not fear, for God's grace shall come upon you, and the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, will become flesh through you: your salvation shall come in the flesh.  He will be great, for He is the Son of God, and yet He will partake of your human nature by being born of you.  As you will be the one to bear the salvation of the world, rightly are you called blessed among women, and rightly are you called full-of-grace.  Therefore, rejoice!  For the King has so desired your beauty that He will take flesh of you to save His children."

Rightly do the Greeks call this feast "the Evangelization of the Theotokos" (Ὁ Εὐαγγελισμός τῆς Θεοτόκου), for on this feast was the Gospel, the Evangelion, first announced, as it was announced by Gabriel to the Theotokos.  As we take leave of this feast, let us remember the salvation announced to us, and let us follow the command of Gabriel the Evangelist: "Rejoice!...Do not fear, for you have found grace with God."  For it is through the grace we have received from the Lord that we can receive our salvation, this day and every day.  As we continue the path of the Fast, let us always keep in mind the wondrous salvation that has been announced to us, and let us praise both the Evangelist and the Theotokos.  For blessed are the feet of those who bring good news, and blessed is the living Ark of God.

"O earth, announce the good news, the good news of great joy.  You heavens, sing the glory, the glory of God."
Nota Bene: The final line is from the Megalynarion of the Annunciation, as found at the Metropolitan Cantor Institute.

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