The Annunciation to the Theotokos (2013)

March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos (Luke 1:24-38) celebrates the incarnation and the beginning of salvation for all humanity.  In this event, all the walls which separated humanity from God are broken down as God unites Himself to His human creatures in order to make us more fully human.

St. Irenaeus (d. 202AD) gives us an idea of how early in Christian history Mary’s role in salvation was understood and appreciated.

Adam Eve Temptation“Eve was seduced by the word of the [fallen] angel and transgressed God’s word, so that she fled from him. In the same way, [Mary] was evangelized by the word of an angel and obeyed God’s word, so that she carried him [within her]. And while the former was seduced into disobeying God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate (advocata0 of the virgin Eve. And just as the human race was bound to death because of a virgin, so it was set free from death by a Virgin, since the disobedience of one virgin was counterbalanced by a Virgin’s obedience. If, then, the first-made man’s sin was mended by the right conduct of the firstborn Son [of God], and if the serpent’s cunning was bested by the simplicity of the dove [Mary], and if the chains that held us bound to death have been broken, then the heretics are fools; they are ignorant of God’s economy, and they are unaware of his economy for [the salvation of] man.” (St. Irenaeus in Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero, pg. 54)

Annunciation, Chora Church, Istanbul

Sunday of Orthodoxy (2013)

ArbpJobFor centuries in the Orthodox Church, the first Sunday of Great Lent has been dedicated to the theological victory of Orthodoxy in defense of icons as not only theology proper but also as theologically necessary for clearly proclaiming the doctrine of salvation in Christ to the world.  Certainly the icons were seen as a very concrete way to proclaim the reality of who Jesus is:  God incarnate.

However, despite the ancient nature of the Sunday of Orthodoxy’s affirmation of Christian theology, there was at one time a different commemoration on the first Sunday of Great lent which is even more ancient in Orthodoxy.

“Before the Triumph of Orthodoxy came to be celebrated on the first Sunday, there was on this day a commemoration of Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and the prophets. Traces of this more ancient observance can still be seen in the choice of the Epistle reading at the Liturgy (Hebrews 11: 24-6. 32-40). and in the Alleluia verse appointed before the Gospel: ‘Moses and Aaron among His priest, and Samuel among them that call upon His Name.’” (The Lenten Triodion, pg. 52)

This earlier tradition of honoring the prophets at the beginning of Lent was long ago replaced by the Sunday of Orthodoxy’s emphasis on the theological importance of the Holy Icons in proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.

“If I consider that the Lord and Savior is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), and if I see that my soul is made ‘in the image of the Creator’ (Gen. 1:27), to be the image of the image (since my soul is not, properly speaking, the image of God but has been formed unto the likeness of the original image), then I will be able to comprehend the matter by putting it in these terms: Just as a painters of images, after choosing (for example) the face of a king, apply their artistic ability to copying a unique model, in the same way each of us, by transforming our own soul into the image of Christ, reproduces an image of him, smaller or larger, sometimes hidden and dirty, but sometimes shining and luminous and corresponding to the original model.”  (Luigi Gambero , Mary and the Fathers of the Church, pg. 79)