Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos, an event reported by the Evangelist Luke:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “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. (1:26-35)
St Photios the Great praises the Theotokos:
Oh, what a miracle! Whom the entire creation cannot contain, the Virgin’s belly bears without being straitened. Whom the Cherubim do not dare to behold, the Virgin carries in her arms of clay. From the barren and fruitless womb comes forth the holy mountain, from which has been cut without hands (Daniel 2:45) a precious cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6; Ephesians 2:20), Christ our God, who has crushed the temples of the demons and the palaces of hell together with their domination. The living and heavenly oven is being forged on earth, wherein the Creator of our clay, having baked the first-fruits with a divine fire and burnt up the crop of tares, makes unto Himself a bread of wholly pure flour (cf Romans 11:16; Numbers 15:19-21). (THE HOMILIES OF PHOTIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, p 175)
There are many hymns in the Church which ponder the great miracle of the Theotokos by finding in the Old Testament texts which prophecy and prefigure the incarnation in the Virgin:
In the Red Sea of old, a type of the unwedded bride was prefigured: there, Moses was the divider of the waters; here, Gabriel was the minister of the miracle. Then, Israel crossed the sea without getting wet; now, the Virgin, without seed, has given birth to Christ. The sea after Israel’s passage remained impassable; the Spotless One, after the birth of Immanuel, remained undefiled. O God who is, Who was from everlasting, and who has revealed Yourself as a human, have mercy on us! (Resurrectional Theotokia Tone 5 Dogmatic)
The above hymn views Moses leading the people of God across the Red Sea as a prefiguring of the incarnation. Again, we note that more important than the historical event is the fact that the crossing of the Red Sea serves as prefiguring of the Virgin birth of the Messiah. The Church in its long history constantly was looking for the relationship of each Old Testament event to the Christ. The Old Testament is more significant as a spiritual text prefiguring the New Testament then it is a text about history.
In another hymn, we see this same careful consideration of each word of Scripture.
When Gabriel announced to you, ‘Rejoice,’ O Virgin, with that word the Master of all became Incarnate in you, the Holy Ark… (Resurrectional Dismissal Theotokia Tone 1).
The one word, “Rejoice”, is what it took for God to become incarnate in the Virgin. Joy is central to God’s union with humanity. We should never forget that as Christians for we should be a people filled with joy because God unites Himself to us and so that God can be united to each of us. If we want God to come and abide in us then we need to…
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)