His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH's
Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Annunciation
“Today is the beginning of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery from the ages; for the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth grace. Wherefore, do we shout with him to the Theotokos: Rejoice, O full of grace! The Lord is with thee”. (Apolytikion of the Annunciation)
We greet you with love and joy on this Holy Feast of the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Most Holy Theotokos.
The Apolytikion quoted above communicates to us the awesome nature of this holy feast, which is the action of a loving God which initiates the events by which humankind is redeemed from the sins of the past. The Archangel announces to the woman who will become the Most Holy Theotokos that she has been chosen to be the tabernacle which will hold the very Son of God. Through her obedience to the will of God, the Virgin Mary becomes a participant in the lifting up of a fallen world to heaven. St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan expresses the awesome nature of this mystery when he writes “The message of God to the Virgin was a mystery so great that it must needs not be uttered by the mouth of man, but only by an Angel. For the first time on earth the words are spoken: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee. The holy maiden heareth and believeth.” How possible it might have been for the Holy Virgin to be frightened and confused by this strange and unbelievable salutation by the Angel Gabriel. But such was her faith and purity that she not only accepted the message, but embraced it with all of her heart, knowing that her fate was completely in the hands of God who would never abandon her.
Embodied in this action by God is the unification of the flesh of man with the image of God. It represents the restoral of humankind from a fallen and broken state, to an exalted state of unity with God. St. Proclus, who served as Archbishop of Constantinople in the fifth century says the following: “The Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary hath gathered us here. She, the pure treasure of virginity, the intended paradise of the Second Adam – the locus wherein was accomplished the co-unity of natures, wherein was affirmed the Counsel of salvific reconciliation.”
The great joy of this holy feast, occurring in the midst of the solemn Holy Season of the Great Fast, brings us a moment of uplifting joy in the midst of our Lenten spiritual struggle. We convey our most heartfelt love to you as we celebrate this joyous feast and we ask our gracious Lord to bless you and to grant that the remainder of the Lenten Season will bring you spiritual renewal.
Yours in Christ,
+ J O S E P H
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America