Sermon on Annunciation, 3/25/21
Sermon for Annunciation
March 25, 2021
Brothers and Sisters!
When Adam and Eve were faced with a choice, either to obey God and inherit eternal life and glory, or to disobey God and inherit death they chose disobedience and death. When the children of Israel rebelled against God, Moses said to them, “Behold, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil. If thou wilt hearken to the commands of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his ordinances, and his judgments; then ye shall live...But if thy heart change, and thou wilt not hearken, and thou shalt go astray and worship other gods, and serve them, I declare to you this day, that ye shall utterly perish...I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: choose thou life, that thou and thy seed may live; to love the Lord thy God, to hearken to his voice, and cleave to him; for this is thy life” (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 LXX).
Free will, the freedom to choose, this is a great gift that God has given to every human being. It is part of the image of God. In the Bible, Joshua ben Sirach writes, “The Lord created man from the earth...He endued them with strength by themselves, and made them according to his image...Counsel, and a tongue, and eyes, ears, and a heart, gave he them to understand. Withal he filled them with the knowledge of understanding, and showed them good and evil. He set his eye upon their hearts, that he might show them the greatness of his works” (Sirach 17: 1-9). But alas, mankind chose incorrectly; in the beginning and constantly throughout history. Concerning this, the Lord spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah, saying, “heaven is amazed at this, and is very exceedingly horror-struck, saith the Lord.
For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of water of life, and hewn out for themselves broken cisterns, which will not be able to hold water” (Jeremiah 2:12-13 LXX). In others words, the People of God continually broke faith with God, and instead of relying on Him and believing in Him, they constructed something of their own making, according to their own reasoning, something broken, something that let the water of life drain away. By forsaking God, by saying “no” to God, they robbed themselves of life. Again, it all started in the Garden with Eve. Sacred history would have to wait for many millennia before God would reveal a new Eve who would reverse everything, and begin the process of the redemption of the world. What did we hear in the Gospel reading today? The angel said to Mary,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God...Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’” (Luke 1: 35-38).
This is why the Virgin is called the “New Eve” in our services and in our tradition, because she said “yes” to God, whereas the first Eve said “no.” “By yielding obedience,” says St Irenaeus of Lyon, (c. 172,) she became the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race”(St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3 Chapter 22). And St Justin Martyr (c.165) writes, “(The Son of God) became man through the Virgin, that the disobedience caused by the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it had originated...For Eve, an undefiled virgin, conceived the word of the serpent and brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary, filled with faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the Most High would overshadow her, and that therefore the Holy One born would be the Son of God...that she replied: Let it be done to me according to your word”
So, dear Brothers and Sisters, Mary’s saying “yes” to God was the inauguration of the redemption of the human race. Let me remind you of the words to the troparion, the anthem, of today’s feast:
"Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee!"
May God, through the Prayers of His Most-Pure and Holy Mother, grant us the grace to always say “yes” to Him, to walk joyfully in His commandments, and thereby become inheritors of eternal life. Amen.