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, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern 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 will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered 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 relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God."
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (ESV)
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Everything To Do With Lent
The Annunciation of our Lord
25 March 2015
The Annunciation of our Lord comes at a strange time of year, as it is in the midst of Lent. This is strange because the Annunciation of our Lord is a kind of Christmas day in the wrong place. And what has Christmas to do with Lent? The Annunciation is the day upon which Christ was conceived of Mary at the announcement of the angel. Lent is the time when we meditate upon the suffering and death of that same Christ upon the cross of Calvary. One is full of joy. The other pole of deep grief and repentance over sin. Yet, despite these contrasts, the Annunciation and the cross belong together. For he who was conceived in the flesh of Mary was also put to death in the flesh (Rm 1:4). Without flesh, there could be no death, no cross, and no salvation.
This man was born to die. His conception, birth, and life all reduced to the moment of Calvary. Everything was focused on the pinpoint or crosspoint of Calvary. The cross, then, becomes the punctum mathematicum (mathematical point) in which the righteousness of God is portrayed in the one man's death for the sin of the world. Everything that is good or right in the world must simply be sucked down into that one point watered as it is by the blood of the one who is the point. There can be no righteousness except in Him alone. Everything about holiness is reduced to this one man and the one act of His death. He, who has all the stars in His hands, reduces the ever-expanding universe down into the immense weight of that point, everything finding its meaning in Him and His death; and He supporting all that is meaningful.
His conception then, is the beginning of this story. His weight is brought into the world and placed in the balance against our sin, that our weightlessness might be redeemed. We lack the heft by which to move the world, indeed, our own sin outweighs us. But not Him. We are lightweights; always conceiving excuses for our sins. He bears the inconceivable burden of the world's sin. His conception is for us. His death is for us. Annunciation has everything to do with Lent.
Ephrem the Syrian
"Christ's death on the cross witnesses to His birth from the woman. For He that died was also born. The Annunciation by Gabriel declares His generation by the Father: 'the Most High will overshadow you' (Lk 1:35). If then it was the power of the Most High, it is plain that it was not the seed of mortal man. So then His conception in the womb is bound up with His death on the cross. His first generation [of the Father] is bound up with the declaration of the angel, in order that those who deny His birth may be refuted by His crucifixion, and those who suppose that His beginning was from Mary, may be admonished that His Godhead is before all. Whoever has concluded His beginning to be corporeal, [is proved to err because His issuing forth from the Father is narrated].
"The Father has begotten Him, and through Him created the creatures (Jn 1: 3). Flesh bore Him and through Him put lusts to death. Baptism brought him forth, that through Him it might wash away stains. Death brought Him forth, that through Him its treasures might be emptied out. He came to us from the bosom of the Father by the way of them that are born. By the way of them that die, He went forth to go to His Father; so that by His coming through birth, His advent might be seen; and by His returning through resurrection, His departure might be confirmed.
"Our Lord was trampled on by death; and in His turn tramped out a way over death. This is He who made Himself subject to and endured death of His own will, that He might cast down death against its will. For our Lord bore His cross and went forth according to the will of death, but He cried out upon the cross (Mt 27:5-52), and brought forth the dead from death against the will of death. For in that very thing by which death had slain Him [that is, the body], in that as armor He carried off the victory over death. But the Godhead concealed itself in the manhood and fought against death, death slew and was slain. Death slew the natural life; and the supernatural life slew death. And because death was not able to devour Him without the body, nor death to swallow Him up without the flesh, He came to the Virgin, that from her He might obtain that which should bear Him to death. Just as from beside the donkey they brought the colt upon which He entered Jerusalem, and proclaimed concealing her overthrow and the destruction of her children, so also with the body then that was from the Virgin, He entered death and plundered its storehouses and emptied its treasures."
Ephrem the Syrian, On Our Lord,
We implore You, O Lord, to pour forth Your grace on us that, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel, so by His cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all those who do not know the joy of the Church on this Annunciation Day, the day on which the world is made new in the conception of our Lord of Mary
For Nabil Nour in thanksgiving to God, who has gotten a very good report from his cardiologist, that the Lord would grant him many more years of service to His bride the Church
For Steven Castillo, who was involved in a serious car accident and is in critical condition, that he would be granted the gift of a full recovery
Art: Annunciation Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, Julius (1818)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015