Rejoice, O Full of Grace: The Annunciation and the Role of Virgin Mary in Our Salvation

Many people, especially those who are only in the beginning of their spiritual life, often like to think about the “last times”, the coming of anti-Christ and the end of the world. However, we often forget about the unique events that have already had place about 2000 years ago. The last times in the history of the humankind have already begun with those events – no matter how much time it would take for the Second Coming of Lord Jesus Christ to happen on earth, the Church is already living in the period after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the period of a new aeon and is already anticipating and revealing the Kingdom of Heaven in the Divine Liturgy.

None of these would happen if only the humanity could not show God the beautiful and pure flower – our Heavenly Queen, the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary, the One Who managed to bear the burden that no one could ever bear.

As St. Apostle and Evangelist Luke writes, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:26-28).

Indeed, that wonderful greeting was the first Gospel itself, for it was the first time since the fall of the ancestors when people heard such an exclamation: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you!” With that greeting of the angel, the Lord righted the ancient condemnation that had been put on Eve: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

So, if we say Christ is a new Adam because He is the originator of a new redeemed humanity, then Virgin Mary becomes a new Eve, who has obeyed God’s commandment. “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), She said and thus gave the Lord an opportunity to save us. Without her consent, without her respond to the angelic message, our salvation would be just impossible: God love us and respects our free will, granted us by Him, and thus we had to be involved in our own salvation.  

Virgin Mary said “yes” and the ancient prophecy of Prophet Isaiah came to life: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). And the words of Job do not seem so strange to us anymore: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) At the very moment when Mary agreed to become the Mother of Lord Jesus Christ, the door to the resurrection of any flesh opened.

Not without reason the icon of the Annunciation surrounded by four Evangelists is depicted on the Royal doors of the iconostasis in Orthodox churches. Through the Annunciation we got the possibility to save ourselves, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Annunciation is the very first Gospel that is delivered to us through four canonical Gospels of holy apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which also reminds us about the Church hierarchy due to which our Church can be called the Apostolic one. Through the Annunciation and Mary’s consent, God incarnated in our world and now we can unite with Him in the most mysterious and sincere way – partaking of His Body and His Blood. All of these became possible at the moment of the Annunciation, when Virgin Mary agreed to serve in the work of our salvation, performed by Jesus Christ.

The word of St. John Chrysostom:

“And he [the Archangel] received all the commandments like these [from the Lord]: “Come, O Angel, become a servant of this awesome mystery. Serve this hidden wonder, as an answer to fallen Adam, who will come under my compassion. Sin has made he that is fashioned in my image to grow old, and has soiled my creation, and has darkened where I created beauty. The wolf has scattered my flock. The dwelling place of Paradise has become a desert. The Tree of Life is guarded by the flaming sword, and the place of nourishment is closed. I have mercy on him who was attacked, and I wish to make war with him who fought against him [i.e. the devil]. I wish for all of the heavenly powers to know, but to you alone I impart the mystery. Go to the Virgin Mary, go to the Spiritual Gate, of which the Prophet said: “Glorious things have been said of you, O City of God.” Go to my Rational Paradise. Go to the Eastern City. Go to her who is the worthy dwelling-place of the Word. Go to the second Heaven on earth. Go to the Light Cloud. Tell her of my coming, the Thunderstorm. Go to her who is my prepared holy place. Go to the Bridal Chamber of my incarnation. Go to the pure Bridal
Chamber of my nativity in the flesh. Speak to the ears of this rational Ark, to prepare the entrance of my hearing. But do not be fearsome, do not trouble the soul of the Virgin…First cry out to her with a voice of joy, and tell Mariam: “Hail, O Full-of-grace,” that I might have mercy on Eve, who is full-of-shame.”

Reflections in the Church tradition:

Troparion — Tone 4

Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!

End of Part III

To be continued…

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