March 25

1. THE ANNUNCIATION

When the All-holy Virgin had 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. To the great surprise of the priests, the All-holy Virgin answered 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 God's providence and inspiration, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, in agreement with the other priests, gathered twelve unmarried men from the tribe of David, so that they might entrust the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and care for her. She was entrusted 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 and was uninterested in worldly matters and events. She spoke very little to anyone, if at all, and never without special need. She most often associated with Joseph's two 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.  This occurred, as some Church writers have related, precisely at the same moment that she held open the book of the Prophet Isaiah and was contemplating his great prophecy: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son! (Isaiah 7:14). Gabriel appeared in all of his angelic brightness and saluted her: Rejoice, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee! (Luke 1:28), and the rest, as it is written in the Gospel of the blessed Luke. With this angelic annunciation and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin, the salvation of mankind and the restoration of all creation began. The history of the New Testament was opened by the words of the Archangel Gabriel: Rejoice, thou that art highly favored. This shows that the New Testament signified joy to mankind and to all created things. Therefore the Annunciation is considered not only a great feast but also a joyful feast.

2. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYRS PELAGIA, THEODOSIA AND DULA

These three holy women suffered for the Lord. After imprisonment and torture 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 MOST-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
(The Theotokos)

OH, WHAT WONDERFUL NEWS: REJOICE, ALL-PURE ONE,
FOR US THOU GAVEST BIRTH TO CHRIST!

OH, JOYFUL NEWS: REJOICE, O VIRGIN,
RADIANT DOVE!

REJOICE, O MARY, REJOICE, THOU WHO ART FULL OF GRACE,
THOU WHO ART 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;
THY SOUL TREMBLES!

THE TEMPLE DIDST THOU SERVE, THOU DIDST CONSECRATE THYSELF TO GOD,
THOU BECAMEST A TEMPLE!

REJOICE, O ALL-PURE ONE, HEAVENLY BRIDE,
THOU ART THE ROYAL THRONE!

REJOICE, O MEEK ONE: TO THE HUMBLE ONE WILT THOU GIVE BIRTH,
AND REGENERATE THE WORLD!

REJOICE, O OBEDIENT ONE: GOD HEARD THEE
AND CROWNED THEE WITH GLORY!

REJOICE, O TEARFUL ONE: BY TEARS SOFTENED,
LUMINOUS IN THE SPIRIT!

REJOICE, O POOR ONE, BUT THE WEALTHIEST ONE
AND BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN!

ENTREAT JOY FOR US FROM CHRIST THY SON,
O VIRGIN, ALL-PURE ONE!


REFLECTION

Abba Athanasius was once asked: "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. Similarly for all three Divine Hypostases: just as there are three candles but there is one and the same light.


CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the All-holy Virgin Mary:

1. How she served God for eleven years in the Temple in humility, obedience and devotion;

2. How she served God in her chamber in Nazareth, in humility, obedience and devotion;

3. How in humility, obedience and devotion she received the Divine Annunciation from the Archangel Gabriel.

HOMILY

on the omnipotent Word of God

"For with God nothing will be impossible God" (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, water and the dry land, the firmament of the heavens, vegetation, animals and finally man came into existence. Until God spoke, none of this existed, and except for God no one 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 called into being, that had to be and could not but have been, for the Word of God is irresistible and creative. The creation of the world is a great miracle accomplished by 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 accomplished by God's Word.

There exists an order and manner among created things that is visible and comprehensible for us people; and there also exists an order and manner that is invisible and incomprehensible. According to that invisible and incomprehensible order and manner, which is a mystery hidden in the Holy Trinity, there have occurred and are occurring those manifestations that people call miracles. One such manifestation is the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the All-holy Virgin Mary, who had not known man. 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 is truly a great miracle; perhaps the greatest miracle that was ever revealed to us mortals. 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. All were brought about by the power and Word of God. That is why the wonderful Gabriel replied to the question of the All-pure one (a question asked by all generations: How shall this be? [Luke 1:34]): For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

O Lord God, our Creator, Immortal and Ever-existing Miracle-worker, enlighten our minds that we no longer doubt, but believe; and direct our tongues not to question Thee, but to praise Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.