|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries
She said "Yes" !
On March 25, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the
Annunciation. On this major feast day, we remember the Incarnation —
the occasion the Word of God took on human nature; the Infinite
Creator became a finite creature; Eternity entered into the flow of
history; and the Immortal One became mortal so that we might attain
The Incarnation was and continues to be one of the most momentous events
in all history. It prepared the way for Jesus’ life on earth
as one of us which would culminate in his saving death on the Cross.
In modern parlance, it was a real game changer. In the Incarnation
the ontology of the universe was restructured. This cosmic
realignment is hinted at in the following prayer to the Virgin Mary in the Small Compline.
Spotless, undefiled, immaculate, unstained, pure
Virgin, Lady and Bride of God, by your wondrous conceiving you
united God the Word with human beings and joined the fallen nature
of our race to heavenly things.
In the Incarnation God’s infinite transcendence over
creation is bridged through Immanuel “God With Us.” In the
Incarnation heaven is united with earth, and conversely fallen
humanity begins to reverse course becoming restored to its former
exalted state. As man Jesus experienced death for all humanity
and rose on the third day victorious over death. Mary’s
Yes made all this possible.
What Mary’s Yes Means For Us
Luke 1:26-38 recounts the Archangel Gabriel’s
announcement to Mary that she has been highly favored by God and
that she would give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High. Mary
of her own free will consented to becoming the Theotokos
(God-Bearer). Mary was indeed chosen by God, but she was not
“elected” in the hyper-Calvinistic sense of zero real choice.
Mary’s Yes is an affirmation of human free will and the possibility
of a true and genuine uncoerced love.
Mary’s Yes is a good example of synergistic cooperation
with God’s grace. Her Yes is also an example of Christian
discipleship. Christian discipleship begins with our saying Yes to
God. Saying Yes to God is a sign of our faith and obedience.
Christian discipleship is a process and a journey. A lifetime
of saying Yes to God results in our spiritual transformation, that
is, theosis. The choices we make in discipleship do not happen
in a vacuum, devoid of the active presence of the Holy Spirit –
divine initiative is a critical necessity. The trajectory of
Mary’s life shows the impact of her radical commitment to Christ:
from the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel, to the manger in
Bethlehem, to her standing at the Cross. There is much we can learn
from her Yes.
The significance of Luke 1 is brought out through
a comparison with Genesis 3. Irenaeus of Lyons contrasted Mary’s
obedience with Eve’s disobedience.
[Eve] having become disobedient, was made the cause of
death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did
Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a
virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both
to herself and the whole human race.
And thus also it was that the knot
of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what
the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did
the virgin Mary set free through faith. (Against Heresies 3.22.4; ANF vol. I p. 455)
Irenaeus’ insight that the Virgin Mary is the Second
Eve builds on the Apostle Paul’s insight that Jesus Christ is the
Second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). Later Church Fathers would expand on
these insights giving rise to a rich heritage of hymns and writings
about the mystery of the Incarnation. One of the most
regrettable aspect of my Protestant heritage, has been the way
Protestants shunned viewing Mary as the Second Eve and in so doing
departed from the historic Christian Faith.
Rejoice, Unwedded Bride!
In present day American culture, the phrase “She said
Yes!” indicates that the woman has accepted the man’s proposal of
marriage. This marks a happy moment that looks to the future where
the two become one flesh and start a family. This reflects the
natural order of things set forth in Genesis 1-2. Mary’s consent to
becoming the Theotokos (God-Bearer) marks the introduction of a
new order that supersedes the old order. The title “Unwedded Bride”
refers to the fact that Mary was betrothed to Joseph but never
married to him; yet despite her never having entered into wedlock,
Mary miraculously conceived and gave birth to Jesus. This was a sign
that God was doing a marvelous new thing.
Readers are invited to listen to Fr. Josiah Trenham’s podcast “Godly Marriage
and Virginity – Paths to Holiness.” At
around the 5:40 mark, Fr. Josiah writes on the white board: “The
Incarnation changed EVERYTHING.” Fr. Josiah’s presentation
helps us to understand how the Incarnation led to a new
understanding of marriage, virginity and human existence. At
the 15:35 mark, Fr. Josiah states: “Marriage is good, but the
monastic life is better.” This helps us to understand why the
Orthodox Church honors Mary as the Unwedded Bride.
Sadly, the fear of Roman
Catholicism so widespread among Protestants, has led to their
ignoring the feast day of the Annunciation – March 25th. After
becoming Orthodox, my appreciation of the Incarnation grew as a
result of hearing the hymns and prayers that celebrate the
Annunciation. Understanding the Incarnation helps us to
appreciate the significance of Christmas. Christmas Day –
December 25th – is more than
the birth of a special Child but also about March 25th –
the day the Divine Word entered into our fallen world and began
reversing the Fall.
The Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation with the hymn “Rejoice
When the archangel understood the
The One Who bowed the heavens by His
Rejoice, unwedded Bride!
Why We Need Feast Days
Anniversaries, holidays, and feast days are important
to who we are. They help us remember what is important to us,
what we prize and cherish. The pressures of everyday living
have a flattening effect on our souls. For this reason, human
beings need a break from mundane existence to reconnect with the
greater transcendent reality – Christ and his Kingdom. These
special days are a matter of the heart. Without this inner
meaning, holidays become empty markers filled with delicious meals,
sweet desserts, accompanied with pleasant socializing or frenzied
partying. This is why the Orthodox Church prepares for the
celebration of feast days with fasting and prayer. These spiritual
disciplines help prepare us to enter into the reality behind the
The church year helps us to remember our history and
our heroes (saints). The church calendar reminds us that we
belong to a holy nation – the Church (1 Peter 1:9-10). Where
Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day all serve to remind those
living in the US of their American identity, the Church calendar
reminds Orthodox Christians of a greater history which goes back
several millennia and spans many cultures and ethnicities all over
Human history is not just secular history of people
competing for power, wealth, and glory but also redemptive history
in which Christ’s divine grace flows through the Church transforming
lives. This is the basis for the Orthodox Church’s celebration
of the lives of the saints. To celebrate the lives of the
saints as we do on feast days is to celebrate the kingdom of God –
Christ’s reclaiming fallen human beings from Satan and restoring
them to the glory of children of God.
Happy Annunciation Day!
Where December 25th
celebrates Christ’s birth as a baby, March 25th celebrates the Word
becoming flesh for our salvation. The feast of the
Annunciation belongs to all Christians: Orthodox, Roman Catholic,
and Protestant. March 25th,
the Feast of the Annunciation, is one of the great feast days in the
Orthodox Church. We celebrate it in songs, prayers, the
Eucharist, and oftentimes with a special meal following the church
It is unfortunate that for
many Protestants and Evangelicals March 25th has
become a forgotten holiday. Protestants should likewise
celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. It is biblical (Luke
1:34-35; John 1:14; Isaiah 9:6) and affirms one of the core truths
of Christianity. Celebrating the Annunciation will guard
Protestants against heresies such as Gnosticism and dualism.
It will also help Protestants and Evangelicals reconnect with the
There is no reason why Reformed Christians should shy away from
celebrating the Annunciation. The Second Helvetic Confession,
Chapter 24 “Of Holy Days,
Fasts and the Choice of Foods,”
Moreover, if in Christian liberty the churches
religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity,
circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into
heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we
approve of it highly. . . .
Here, we find a major Reformed confession giving hearty
approval to the feast days pertaining to the life of Christ.
It is curious that the confession makes no mention of the
Annunciation; nevertheless, it seems that Reformed churches did at
one time observe feast days celebrating the major events in the life
of Christ. Thus, it would be good for Reformed churches to
reinstate the ancient feast day of the Annunciation. It would
also be good for Reformed Christians to visit an Orthodox Sunday
worship service this coming Sunday and observe how the Orthodox
celebrate the Annunciation.
Come and see!
Article published in English on: 25-3-2018.
Last update: 25-3-2018.