Homily for 4/7/13 - Annunciation (L3) - Rejoice!
- There are those who say that religions exist because of some
psychological need that human beings have to find God. We need to relate
to something larger than ourselves and so we search for that greater
thing and call it God. The primitives saw the forces of nature as more
powerful than themselves and so worshipped the force behind the rains or
the lightning or the winds. Later men created a pantheon of gods to
worship seeing deity in every aspect of the world around them and so
worshipped the god of the sea, the god of the mountain, the god of love,
and so on. As time went on the gods became more and more abstract and
philosophy began to replace religion and ideas began to replace personal
gods. Then came along the idea of a single all powerful god who gathered
all the lesser powers and ideals into himself. People created these
gods, it is sometimes said, to fulfill their own internal needs to find
a god. But this is not the truth of the matter. God does exist and
created us to live in union and communion with Himself. Our need to
search for God is a result of the working of this innate purpose for
which we were created and which was lost in the fall. Our first parents
sinned and the communion with God was broken. As a result of this broken
communion we replaced God with our own self not knowing anything better
and began to erect barriers and walls of sin until God was forgotten and
alien to us. Religion is about our need to find a way back to God.
But the Orthodox Christian faith is not about finding our way to God.
Rather, God has come looking for us. He did not stop loving mankind,
even as we forgot Him and built the high barriers of sin to hide our
selves from Him. He desired that we should not be lost to Him and so He
came looking for us that He might restore in us that union and communion
with Himself. Having come to us, He then opened the path that we might
follow Him back into His Kingdom, back to our original purpose to live
in communion with Him. This path that He has opened for us is the
Orthodox Christian faith. We are not searching for God – He is searching
for us and He has found us. Having found us, He frees us from the chains
that bind us here in our wandering and then leads us back to His Kingdom
– to our intended home.
Today, on the feast of the Annunciation, we remember how it all began.
God, has found the one who could be the gate by which He has entered the
world, that gate is the Most Holy Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary was no
ordinary girl, but a young woman who was dedicated to God before her
birth and who from her infancy willingly dedicated her whole being to
serving God. She lived her entire childhood in the temple until she
reached her womanhood and could no longer remain. Instead of seeking to
marry and raise a family, she desired to continue her life in virginity,
devoting the whole of her energies to serving God and this was arranged
by her betrothal to the righteous Joseph, a widower of advanced years
who was chosen by the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit to be
her guardian. This life of dedicated service to God was nothing less
than her preparation to become the gateway by which God entered into the
world and became man.
At the peak of her preparation, God sent to her the Archangel Gabriel as
the herald of the greatest mystery and miracle the world would ever
experience. This miracle is greater even that the miracle of the
creation by which the entire universe came into being out of
nothingness. This miracle is the incarnation. God the creator of the
universe has humbled Himself to take on human flesh and enter the world
in order that He might rescue mankind and lead us home into His Kingdom.
God came to search for us – His lost creation – that He might restore us
to our former place.
When the Archangel came to visit the Virgin, he said to her “Rejoice”.
He did not say, “Do not fear” and this is significant, for in other
cases when the angels have appeared to men, they first speak to allay
our fear at encountering a heavenly creature. But the Archangel did not
say to the Virgin, “Do not fear” for she was already accustomed to
angelic visions from her life of prayer in the temple. Rather, the
Archangel began with the primary thrust of the message: “Rejoice!”
“Rejoice!” for God has come to end our exile. “Rejoice!” for the path to
enter the Kingdom of Heaven has been opened. “Rejoice!” for God has
found us who were lost in our sins. “Rejoice!” for God has come to free
us from our captivity. “Rejoice!” for our salvation is at hand. Here is
the message of this feast, “Rejoice!” How wonderful it is that this
great message comes to us in the midst of the fast. We are deep inside
the ascetic struggle of self denial leading to the cross and we hear
from the angel “Rejoice!” to remind us that we do not struggle alone,
but that God is with us and will not abandon us, even in the midst of
our present struggle. Today we are given new strength; today the good
news that God has come to us is proclaimed; today we rejoice for our
salvation is at hand.
When our first parents fell through sin, all mankind was separated from
God. From that time forward mankind has slid further and further from
God, building the barriers of self will and sin higher and higher. But
God does not let us waste away in our self made exile. He has come to
find us. By an awesome miracle, He has entered His creation as one of us
so that He might find us, release us from our bonds, and lead us back to
Himself. And today the Archangel proclaims to the Virgin and to us the
great news of God’s coming by saying to us “Rejoice!” And so brothers
and sisters, let us do just that – to pause for a moment from our
struggles, to lift up our hearts and minds to heaven and glorify God –
rejoicing in the good news of the Annunciation.
Archpriest David Moser
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)