March 25, 2022

Sermon – The Feast of the Annunciation 2022

Pastoral Sermon
The Feast of the Annunciation
March 25, 2022

In the Hymn of the Kontakion of the Feast, also called: “The Kontakion of Great Lent,” we hear these words: O victorious leader [“Champion Leader”] of Triumphant Hosts, do I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, thou who has delivered me from terror; but as thou that hast that power invincible, O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free from all forms of danger free me and deliver me, that I may cry unto thee: Hail, O bride without Bridegroom!”

I am bringing this hymn to our attention on this, the Feast of the Holy Annunciation to point out the irony with how we have frequently defined manhood in our day. The words used in this hymn with the powerful images of strength ascribed the the All Holy Mother of God is not what we would usually define as the trait of a “female.” Yet the hymn attributes to the Holy Virgin those attributes that we often ascribe to men: protector, provider, and leader, —the very words heard in the Kontakion in reference to the role of the Mother of God. Remarkably, she is also known as the Patron and Protector of the monasteries of Mt. Athos—communities solely comprised of men!

Now listen also to the words of the Holy Virgin in the Magnificat found in the Gospel section that follows today’s reading (Luke 1:46) during the visit of Elizabeth, the cousin of the Virgin Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!

How is it that we understand these words of Mary? How do we also reconcile the words heard in the Kontakion of the Feast? How does she who is a model of humility speak with such confidence and certitude; who is also regarded as a “triumphant and victorious leader,” with “invincible power” as one who also “delivers us from danger?”

Does Mary speak with pride when she declares: “henceforth all generations shall call me blessed?” More importantly, since the Virgin Mother is the model of great humility and obedience, how do we reconcile what seems to be contrasting descriptions of her role and how might we better understand God’s personal calling of you and me?

First we know the Holy Virgin as: the “sanctified temple” and “God-bearer;” something that you and I, both men and women are also called to be. And as we have heard, Mary is also acclaimed as a “victorious and ‘Champion’ leader” with “invincible power,” a protector and deliverer!

All of these attributes are of the virtues of spiritual power—no different from what should exemplify anyone: male or female; all who make it their purpose to do God’s will and to be His servant. Both men and women are called to be equipped with the ability to protect and to save (or deliver). We should never underestimate the power that comes from all who are called “God-bearers.”

And yet, while we know and believe that men and women in Christ are equal, along with Jews, Greeks, slave or free, we also proclaim the equality of the Holy Trinity as three divine persons. However, it must also be said that we do not deny or ignore that men and women are not identical. And similarly we also maintain the distinction of: the unoriginate Father, His only-begotten Son, and live-giving Spirit; known and proclaimed as three persons and undivided.

I close with the Holy Apostle Paul’s description of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22ff), again pointing out that the word is fruit in the singular and is not as is often misinterpreted as “fruits” in the plural: - “For the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” These are not feminine virtues. The apostles description was not to emasculate men from being who they are as male persons. They belong to the qualities of God’s Spirit at work in both men and women. Therefore let us become mature in our thinking by overcoming our misconceptions, the distortions of our culture, and the false images of men and women, if we desire to acquire every Godly virtue and fulfill our call as men and women living in step with the God’s Spirit.