March 26, 2023

Homily One on the Annunciation of the Theotokos (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 7, 1945)

“Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace.”

Now the great mystery of our Christian faith has been fulfilled, what the holy prophet Isaiah predicted seven hundred years before the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel, which means: 'God is with us'” (Is. 7:14).

Why did this holy prophet say that the Lord would be called Emmanuel, while the Archangel Gabriel, who now greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary, said that She would call His name Jesus? What does this mean? This is explained by the meaning of the name Emmanuel: "God is with us."

All Christian nations, all those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, call Him the Savior, the True God, Who lived with people on earth. This justified the name Emmanuel, "God with us", about which the prophet spoke. Emmanuel is the God-man, this is the God who is with us, God in the flesh. The greatest mystery of our salvation has been accomplished, what we read about in the holy apostle Paul: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory" (I Tim. 3:16). He said that the holy angels would like to penetrate into this extraordinary mystery, but it was not given to them to know all its depths. Should we, weak and infirm, try to penetrate it?

But we know that the dogmas about the God-manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ and about His seedless incarnation from the Blessed Virgin Mary form the basis of our entire Christian faith. For if we did not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, incarnated from the Most Holy Virgin Mary, then our hope for salvation would be in vain. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke of Himself that He is the Son of God, the Bread of Heaven, descended from Heaven. We accept this with all our hearts and do not try to comprehend the bottomless depths of the mystery of the appearance of God in the flesh.

But still, as far as it is possible for us, let us try to understand why the incarnation of the Son of God was necessary, why did He need to take on human flesh? Is it not because He saved us from eternal death and from the power of the devil with His Cross, His terrible sufferings and death on the Cross on Golgotha?

According to the inexpressible counsel of God, it was necessary that our Lord Jesus Christ “trample down death by death”, so that He would incarnate and take on a human Body, and die a true human death. The Lord Jesus Christ brought this terrible sacrifice in order to bring us closer to God, in order to make us from mortal people to eternally living God-men. He became the God-man and opened the way for us to God-manhood, so that in our renewed body we would partake of the eternal and infinite approach to the holiness of God. And if this is so, then, of course, He could not do this while remaining only God. He had to become a God-man, He had to be incarnated from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This event - the incarnation of the Son of God - is immeasurably great, so it had to be foretold miraculously - the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his good news was the greatest of all the good news that the human race has ever heard. In Nazareth, in the modest dwelling of the Blessed Virgin Mary, amazing words were heard: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace! The Lord is with you. Blessed are You among women” (Luke 1:28), that is, blessed more than any woman.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was silent. Did She come to awe and horror, natural for an ordinary person at the sight of the Archangel? No, it was not horror that seized Her, but embarrassment because of the unusual greeting. The Virgin was not horrified by the extraordinary appearance, because she herself was the most holy of saints, and her holy soul was like an angel in her spiritual purity. She expressed only perfectly understandable bewilderment, asking: “How can this be when I don’t know my husband?” And she received a wondrous answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:34-35).

Has there ever been a Virgin among all those born, like the Blessed Mary in purity and holiness? Oh no! There never has been and never will be. Unspeakably and amazingly, the great mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is covered with Divine glory.

How can we not bow down with all our hearts before the Most Holy Virgin, Who has become the instrument of the great and incomprehensible mystery of God? How can we not call Her “more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim”? Shouldn't the Mother of the Heavenly King Himself be placed by us above all the Powers of Heaven, above all His servants? The Archangels, Seraphim and Cherubim are also the servants of God.

Of course, we must honor Her with all our hearts and consider Her our Heavenly Mother, trying to imitate Her virtues and fulfill those words of Her that we sing at every matins and that she spoke to Elizabeth, the mother of the Forerunner of the Lord: All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

All of us, Orthodox Christians, bless the Blessed Virgin Mary in accordance with the teaching of Holy Scripture, but we must say with pain that the enemies of the Church of Christ - Protestants, sectarians and other heretics - do not participate in this praise of the Orthodox world. They completely reject the veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos, saying that the Mother of God was only a pious woman, like many others, and even condemn us for the fact that we lift up prayers to Her and, turning to Her, say: “Most Holy Theotokos, save us.” They say: “How is it possible to seek salvation from a pious woman? We have one Savior - the Lord Jesus Christ, He alone saves us, and there are no other saviors."

What should we say to this? We turn to the Mother of God as our Intercessor. We know that She did not directly save the world, just as Her Divine Son saved us with His Cross. But she can work for our salvation by her prayers before her Son, and we ask for her prayers, which are so powerful before Him.

The holy Apostle Paul said of himself: “I have become everything to all, in order to save at least some” (I Cor. 9:22). He called on the Apostle Timothy: "Pay attention to yourself and to the doctrine, for by doing so you will save yourself and those who hear you" (see I Tim. 4:16).

As we see from the Holy Scriptures, the holy apostles also save us. How? The same as the Most Holy Theotokos - with her prayers, her teachings and her closeness both to us and to the Lord Jesus Christ. If the apostles can save us, then why can't the Mother of God? She is our Intercessor, the Blessed Mother of the whole Christian race. That is why we cry out to Her: “Most Holy Theotokos, save us.”

We call Her the Lady, the Queen of Heaven. And the sectarians are outraged by this: "We have one King - God." Isn't it right for us to call Her the Queen if She is the Mother of the King? Does not even in the human race every mother of the King bear the title of Queen? In the same sense, we call Her the Queen of Heaven, for She is the Mother of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. We call her the Lady because she has great power to protect us from the devil. And the unfortunate sectarians reject this divine holy help of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May the Lord forbid them! And may He forbid to all of us all communication with sectarians, so that they do not seduce us to the path of death. And through the Most Holy Theotokos, whose greatest feast we celebrate today, may we all be saved from the devil and all his servants. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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