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Today…the Son of God becomes the Son of Man

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…and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus (Lk 1:26-28, 31).
 
This announcement was a fulfillment of what was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah some 700 hundred years prior: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). 
 
There is another fulfillment, in the book of Genesis. Jacob dreams of a ladder set up on the earth with its top reaching the heavens. Upon this ladder, the angels of God ascended and descended, whilst at the very top the Lord stood proclaiming: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac… and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Gen 28:13-14).
 
On waking up, Jacob erected a pillar and called the name of that place Bethel, meaning the house of God and the gateway of heaven (ibid,17).
 
Mary, who is only about fifteen years old and a virgin is startled to hear the news. She questions the Archangel on how this could be possible: How can this be, since I do not know a man (ibid, 34)? The Archangel simply responds: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (ibid, 35).
 
The Archangel then tells Mary about the pregnancy of Her cousin, Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). With God nothing will be impossible (ibid, 37). The difference, however, is that with Mary, She conceived immaculately without seed. The reference, however, to the conception of John the Baptist is to underscore what the Archangel said: for with God nothing will be impossible. Thus, with God all things are possible. 
 
Luke is the only Gospel which contains the narrative of the Annunciation and the conception and birth of John the Baptist. 
 
Mary accepts the great blessing that has been bestowed upon Her: Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word (ibid, 38). She humbly submits Herself to the will of God, becoming the Theotokos.
 
Gabriel told Mary that Her son, the Messiah, will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Lk 1:33). The Theotokos, realized that this prophecy is fulfilled in Her and exclaims:
 
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation (ibid, 46-50).
 
Many have questioned whether Mary had a choice to accept becoming the Theotokos. Could she have rejected the tidings of the Archangel? Gabriel did not ask Mary if she wanted to be the Theotokos, rather announced to Her the good tidings of becoming the Theotokos. When She said let it be to me according to your word that was Her accepting God’s will. 
 
Throughout our lives there are many events that come to pass, blessings and tribulations. Yet, in all these things, our goal as a Christian is to accept them all with humility and faith. When we do have the opportunity to choose, our hope is to choose wisely, in prayer and contemplation, in concert with God’s will.
 
All human beings created by God since Adam, were given both the gift of life and the gift of free will. The First Eve had a choice in the Garden of Eden to partake of the fruit from the forbidden Tree. Unfortunately, she did not choose wisely and sinned, disobeying God’s commandment. Likewise, Mary had that same autonomy to choose. She chose to safeguard Her virginity throughout Her life and to be pure, without sin. Above all, Mary chose wisely to be obedient to God’s will. For this reason, She is the Second Eve. 
 
As we hear in the Oikos of Festal Matins and at the 1st and 5th Salutations to the Theotokos on Friday evenings during Great Lent:
 
Rejoice, through whom is the joy to shine forth. Rejoice, through whom is the curse to vanish…Rejoice, restoration of Adam the fallen one. Rejoice, liberation of Eve from tears. Rejoice, through whom is creation recreated. Rejoice, by whom is the Creator procreated. Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!
 
Thus, the Second Eve did what the First Eve came short of doing: obedience to God. It is for this reason that creation is recreated and the First Eve is liberated. The same applies with the relationship with the First Adam and the Second Adam (Jesus). Christ in His earthly life did what the First Adam was created to do but failed: obedient to God’s will and to be sinless. 
 
The Feast of Annunciation, like that of Transfiguration is an example of God in Action. We see the Theotokos experience God’s grace, thus She contained in Her womb the Eternal Logos. It is precisely by God’s energies that His creation experiences and communicates with Him, the Creator. 
 
Today is the summary of our salvation, and the revelation of the age-old mystery. For the Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. Therefore, let us join him, and cry aloud to the Theotokos: "Rejoice, Maiden full of grace! The Lord is with you." (Festal Apolytikion)
 
The crux of this hymn is that the Son of God becomes the Son of Man. 
 
The Eternal Logos takes flesh from His mother, the Theotokos and becomes man. We hear the Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin not in the Festal Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ but only for the Annunciation. This confirms that life begins at conception, not at birth.
 
Christ assumes humanity by taking flesh from the Theotokos. He went through the natural order, from a fetus in Mary’s womb, to an infant, then a child, and finally an adult. How else could He be fully and truly human without entering the earthly life as a fetus? He becomes human while always being divine.
 
The Feast of Annunciation is a prelude to His Incarnation. The salvation of humanity has already begun that is why the apolytikion for this Feast begins with Today. It is happening here and now, continuously. The Lord is with you not was with you or will be with you. Once again, the emphasis is on the present tense. 
 
The age-old mystery is revealed today, and the Son of God becomes the Son of man, so that by partaking of what is lower He may impart to me what is superior. Of old, Adam was deceived; and he did not become God, though this was his desire. But now, God becomes man, to make Adam god. Let creation sing for joy, and let nature be exultant. For the Archangel is standing with awe before the Virgin and is delivering the salutation, "Rejoice," the reverse of the pain and sorrow. O our God, who in Your tender mercy became man, glory to You! (Doxastikon of Festal Matins)
 
A Blessed and Joyous Feast to All!
 
-John Athanasatos 
 

A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.

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