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Annunciation

The feast of the Annun­ci­a­tion of the Vir­gin Mary comes nine months before Christ­mas on the twen­ty-fifth of March. It is the cel­e­bra­tion of the announc­ing of the birth of Christ to the Vir­gin Mary as record­ed in the Gospel of Saint Luke.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a vir­gin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was great­ly trou­bled at the say­ing, and con­sid­ered in her mind what sort of greet­ing this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will con­ceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for­ev­er; and of his king­dom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no hus­band?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spir­it will come upon you, and the pow­er of the Most High will over­shad­ow you; there­fore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Eliz­a­beth in her old age has also con­ceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called bar­ren. For with God noth­ing will be impos­si­ble.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the hand­maid of the Lord; let it be to me accord­ing to your word.” And the angel depart­ed from her (Lk 1:26–38).

The ser­vices of the feast of the Annun­ci­a­tion, the Matins and the Divine Litur­gy, stress again and again the joy­ous news of the sal­va­tion of men in the birth of the Saviour.

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 (Tropar­i­on).

A spe­cial fea­ture of this feast is the Mati­nal Canon which has the char­ac­ter of a dia­logue between the Archangel Gabriel and the Vir­gin Mary. Also among the more pop­u­lar ele­ments of the feast is the Mag­ni­fi­ca­tion which has the form of our own salu­ta­tion to the vir­gin moth­er with the words of the archangel:

With the voice of the archangel we cry to Thee, O Pure One: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee! (Mag­ni­fi­ca­tion).

The cel­e­bra­tion of the Annun­ci­a­tion, there­fore, is the feast of our own recep­tion of the glad tid­ings of sal­va­tion, and our own glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the maid­en Mary who becomes the Moth­er of God in the flesh.

Because the feast of the Annun­ci­a­tion nor­mal­ly comes dur­ing the sea­son of Great Lent, the man­ner of cel­e­bra­tion varies from year to year depend­ing upon the par­tic­u­lar day on which it falls. If the feast comes on a week­day of Lent, which is the most com­mon case, the Divine Litur­gy of the feast is served in the evening with Ves­pers and thus is cel­e­brat­ed after a full day of total absti­nence. When this hap­pens, the fast­ing rules for the Litur­gy of the Pre­sanc­ti­fied Gifts are fol­lowed. The Divine Litur­gy of the Annun­ci­a­tion is the only cel­e­bra­tion of the eucharis­tic litur­gy of Saint John Chrysos­tom allowed on a week­day of Great Lent.