The Three-Fold Call of the Annunciation
“Today is the beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the mystery of ages,
for the Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin.”
On the feast of the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow, we sign this hymn, which highlights two important aspects in this “revelation of the mystery of ages.” First, we lift up and honor the young maiden, the Virgin Mary, and emphasize what happened to her and how she responded to God’s call. Second, each of us is challenged to take to heart ourselves the message of the Annunciation and reflect on how we can respond in similar fashion. Let’s look at these two aspects of tomorrow’s great feast.
First, we can focus on the Virgin Mary. A young girl, 13 or 14 years old, who has lived most of her life growing up in the Temple of Jerusalem, preparing to dedicate her life to the Lord. Even with such preparation, though, it still must have been a shock for her to encounter the Archangel Gabriel. To come into contact with any angel always seems to be a frightful experience in the Bible, but to stand face to face with the leader of the angelic powers must have been truly fearful and awe-inspiring.
The Archangel shocks her when he says, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” What type of greeting is this? Well, she is the chosen one in all of history. None of us can imagine what it would be like to be the one person in all history whom God has chosen to become His mother. The Virgin Mary. The Mother of God. The Queen of Heaven. The Mother of us all.
When we visited Nazareth in the Holy Land one month ago, one of our most special visits was to the great Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which was built over the home of Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin Mary. On the walls outside of the Church, there were over one hundred beautiful mosaics from around the world depicting the Virgin Mary and the Christ child. It was so moving to see how people from more than one hundred countries depicted the Mother of God in their own cultural understanding, as their mother, the mother of all humanity.
She is the chosen one throughout every generation, yet with utmost humility she offers three different responses to the Archangel from which we all can learn. She begins by saying, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your will.” Yes, she is the chosen one, yet she understands herself as a humble servant – a faithful servant who is ready to do whatever the will of God is.
Let it be to me according to your will.
Next, when the Archangel explains to her what will happen, she responds, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In other words, her soul wants to solely glorify, praise and lift up God. She does not respond in any proud or arrogant way, thinking of herself as someone special because she was chosen. Basically, she responds, “I know life is not about me, Lord, but it is all about You! And my soul simply wants to praise and lift up Your holy name in my life. My life is dedicated to honor and glorify You and You alone!”
Finally, Mary emphasizes, “And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” When we dedicate our life to following our Lord, we discover the greatest treasure and joy in life. This is the “pearl of great price.” Mary states, “My joy and my delight lie solely in God, and in nothing else in this world.” Another of the greatest saints, the Apostle Paul, would later write, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Even the Prophet Nehemiah once wrote, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” A life in Christ is all about joy! For Mary, dedicating her life to following the will of God brings her immense joy, and thus, her soul rejoiced in God her Savior!
Think a moment about the Virgin Mary’s threefold response to the Archangel Gabriel:
Let it be to me according to Your will.
My soul magnifies the Lord.
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Three beautiful lessons that the Virgin Mary teaches us during this feast of the Annunciation. We celebrate and honor the Panayia, the all Holy One, the Theotokos, on this feastday, but the most appropriate way we can honor her is by imitating her! “Let it be to me according to Your will. For my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
In each of our own lives, what happens when God comes to us? And He does come to us! The Book of Revelation tells us that Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks (Rev 3:20). How do we respond to His knock? To His call? To His invitation?
Are we ready to live our lives seeking out His will? Can we say, as did the young Mary, “Let it be to me according to Your will? Not my will but Your will be done in my life!” Or will our ego get in the way? Will we allow our egocentric desires to pull us in another direction? As children of God, created in the image of God, called to the greatness of God, we can fully trust Him and say, “Yes Lord, let it be to me according to Your will,” for we know He is our loving Father who only wants what is best for us.
Jesus teaches us to “Seek first the kingdom of God.” The way is narrow and difficult into this kingdom because our own desires and passions want to take priority. The Virgin Mary, though, sets an example for us. She gives up her freedom by freely giving her own will over to the Lord. “Let it be to me according to Your will.” That must become our prayer as well!
Then, when we learn to give up our will and follow God’s ways, our souls will truly be filled with the joy of the Lord, and we will be able to continue to “magnify the Lord and rejoice in God my Savior.” The joy of the Lord will become our source of strength and the fountain of our lives.
Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have given birth to the Savior of our souls. Pray for us, blessed Mother of God, that we may follow your example and say together with you, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your will. For I want my soul to magnify the Lord and rejoice in God my Savior.” Amen.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith