Thursday, March 25, 2010

Notes on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Widely celebrated on this date, the Feast of the Annunciation is one of the great feasts of the Christian year. As we commemorate the Archangel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive the Son of God in her womb, we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation that lies at the heart of our faith.

Though I suspect that many Christians merely take it for granted or simply don't think about it, we really should be both amazed and overjoyed that God would become a human being for our sake. As an aid to reflection, I'd like to share some excerpts from a fifth-century sermon on the Annunciation by St. Proclus of Constantinople:
Who has ever seen, who has ever heard, that the Limitless God would dwell within a womb? He Whom the Heavens cannot circumscribe is not limited by the womb of a Virgin!

He Who is born of woman is not just God and He is not just Man. . . . The Lover of Mankind did not disdain to be born of woman, since She gave Him life (in His human nature). He was not subject to impurity by being in the womb which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. If this Mother had not remained a Virgin, then the Child born of Her might be a mere man, and the birth would not be miraculous in any way. Since She remained a Virgin after giving birth, then how is He Who is born not God? It is an inexplicable mystery, for He Who passed through locked doors without hindrance was born in an inexplicable manner. Thomas cried out, "My Lord, and my God!" (Jn 20:28), thus confessing the union of two natures in Him.

. . .

Know then that our Redeemer is not simply a mere man, since the whole human race was enslaved to sin. But neither is He just God, Who does not partake of human nature. He had a body, for if He had not clothed Himself in me, then neither would He have saved me. But having settled in the womb of the Virgin, He clothed Himself in my fate, and within this womb He effected a miraculous change: He bestowed the Spirit and received a body.

And so, Who is made manifest to us? The Prophet David shows you by these words, "Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord" (Ps. 117/118:26). But tell us even more clearly, O prophet, Who is He? The Lord is the God of Hosts, says the prophet: "God is the Lord, and has revealed Himself unto us" (Ps 117/118:27). "The Word was made flesh" (Jn 1:14): there the two natures were united, and the union remained without mingling.

He came to save, but had also to suffer. What has the one in common with the other? A mere man cannot save; and God cannot suffer in His nature. By what means was the one and the other done? He, Emmanuel, being God, was made also Man. He saved by that which He was (God), and He suffered as that which He became (Man).
A blessed Feast of the Annunciation to all readers. AMDG.


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