Monday, March 24, 2014

The Prelude of the Incarnation
 Coptic Icon of the Annunciation (1995) by Bedour Latif and Yousef Nassief

"Today is the prelude of joy for the whole world.  Let us then anticipate the feast and celebrate with glee: for behold, Gabriel is on his way with glad tidings for the Virgin."
--Troparion of the Forefeast of the Annunciation

Tomorrow is the day when God becomes flesh.  While He will still be hidden except from a few, such as the Forerunner and his mother, He will be in our world, having fully emptied Himself to take on our nature, the nature we have soiled by our sins.  He becomes a high priest like us in all things but sin, and to be like us in all things, He must be in the womb.  So, through the sacrificial assent of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, the Son of God will dwell in the womb of a woman tomorrow.  How great a message is Gabriel tasked to bear!

Tomorrow, then, is the day of the Ἐνσάρκωση, the Incarnation, the "Enfleshing," to translate literally, of the Son of God.  Yet, as it always falls during the Great Fast, rarely even on Good and Great Friday itself, we must always remember how the Lord's Incarnation will end: with His death on the Honorable Cross, and His Resurrection from the dead.  He came knowing His death would come, knowing it would come in such a way, being "obedient to death, even death on a cross," and yet He willingly became flesh for us.  Let us never cease to glorify and thank Him for His sacrifice.

Tomorrow, too, the pious Jewish girl becomes the Theotokos.  She becomes the greatest of saints, for only she was given the grace to be the Mother of God, and she draws all men to her Son.  "Blessed be the Babe / Who made His mother the lyre of His melodies!"  So we await the dawning of the morrow with joy, that bright day, "for His conception was in the victory of light," and so let us recall that great meeting that will take place tomorrow, as recounted in the splendid hymn of St. Romanos the Melodist:

"At the magnificence of your virginity and your exceedingly splendorous purity Gabriel stood amazed and cried out to you, O Theotokos: 'What praise may I offer you that is worthy of your beauty?  By what name shall I call you?  I am bewildered, I am lost!  But I shall greet you as I was commanded: Rejoice!  Rejoice, O Full of Grace!'"
The Annunciation (1489-1490) by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

Nota Bene: The quotes in the last paragraph before the hymn are from the Hymns on the Nativity of St. Ephraim the Syrian, 15.4 and 27.1, respectively.  The hymn is the final section of the Akathist, based on the translation in the Melkite Horologion (from which the opening troparion was also taken), Second Edition (Boston, MA: Sophia Press, 2009).

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