Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the Virgin’s name was Mary.
On the First Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, an Israelite identified by our Lord as one without guile, Nathanael by name, quipped sarcastically when he had heard that the Messiah foretold by Moses and the Prophets was found coming from Nazareth, a backwater town of little acclaim, “’Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’” (Jn. 1:45-46). Today, God answers Nathanael and any others who may have been of little faith. Today, God dispatches His Archangel to Nazareth. It is a royal dispatch entrusted to a divine and heavenly messenger of God Almighty. Today, we are given an unequivocal answer that not only can good come from Podunk, but salvation itself is announced there. The Archangel comes to the priceless gem of Nazareth, an exceedingly beautiful maiden, the “most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary”!
It is today that this most blessed Lady comes into her own, however. We celebrated her nativity; we commemorated her entrance into the Temple. After today, we will celebrate her once more at her Dormition. But, it is today that she – and we – come face-to-face with the divine Mystery in the person of the Archangel. His words reveal not only the divine Mystery of the Incarnation, but they reveal the mystery of the Blessed Virgin herself who stands with all women of every time and every place while among them as the most unique! “’Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee,’” the Archangel greets her, “’blessed art thou among women.’” This is not to be confused with our colloquial greetings nor misunderstood as such. This is not a “Howdy, neighbor! Top of the morning to you!” This is royalty. This is divine Mystery captured best in the old translation, “’Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’” This woman from nowhere Nazareth is, among all women, blessed. She is “’full of grace,’” not merely favored as one above another. But, she is a woman full of divine grace. No other woman in Sacred Scripture is greeted this way because no other woman is so full of the grace of God as she was and is. Her ever-virginal womb will be the mediatrix of the union of God with humanity, and her Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, will be the one Mediator between God and man (1 Tm. 2:5) precisely because He alone will be God incarnate – the eternal Word made flesh, the God-Man (Jn. 1:1-14) – so that the Apostle can say in today’s Epistle, “both He Who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, . . . .” (Hb. 2:11-18).
All of this is made possible because of this most holy, most pure and blameless Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary of Nazareth. Salvation hangs in the balance of her consent. Her maternal love, fostered and nurtured in her abiding in the Holy of Holies during her formative years, now manifests itself. Not only will she be the Mother of God the Son, as declared by the Archangel, but she will be the Mother of salvation! Her heart is a heart full of love for God and for the world created by the hand of her Son-to-be. “Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Mary, full of grace,” sings the Church, “the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb: for thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls.” Rejoice, thou who art full of grace! Rejoice, world, sin-benighted! Rejoice, O throne of David! Rejoice, O house of Jacob! Rejoice, O creation long held in bondage to sin and the decay of death! And, it all hinges on one thing: our Lady’s consent there in Nazareth.
Beloved, let us not diminish the Mystery of this feast wherein is made known the blessed cooperation of God and man. The Almighty with Whom all things are possible, chooses nonetheless not to do righteousness “for us men and for our salvation” apart from the will of His creature. What Eve failed to do in Paradise, “our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary” achieved by her willing consent. Nothing, beloved, happens of salvific significance without the synergy of God and man. The saving and sanctifying power of Great and Holy Lent is made possible because of this feast. The saving and sanctifying power of Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is found only with our participation in these ascetical practices, which is to say, in our cooperating with the grace of God through them. Through them the fullness of God’s grace is made ours.
It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, without defilement [corruption] thou gavest birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify thee.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ our God,
have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
VIGIL PROPERS: PROPERS:
Gn. 28:10-17 Hb. 2:11-18
Ek. 43:27-44:4 Lk. 1:24-38