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The Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos at the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth

On Sunday, March 25 / April 7, 2024, the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady the Theotokos was celebrated in Nazareth.

On this feast, the whole Church, especially that in Jerusalem, commemorates the fact that the fullness of time has come, God through the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary in the city of Nazareth that by the Holy Spirit she will incarnate the Only Begotten Son and His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. In parallel and according to the standard of the fixed calendar, the feast of the veneration of the Holy Cross was celebrated to strengthen us in the struggle of fasting for the reception of Holy Easter.

On the occasion of this holiday, a celebration was held for a Divine Liturgy in the Holy Church-Shrine of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Nazareth, presided over by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. Concelebrating with Him were their Eminences, the Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, the Archbishops; Damascene of Yaffo, Aristarchos of Constantina, Methodios of Tabor, Holy Sepulchre Hieromonks, with first in rank the Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Head of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem (MISSIA) Archimandrite Vassianos, Priests of the area of Nazareth and Acre, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios, at the attendance of a large congregation. The chanting was delivered by the choir of Nazareth and the choir of Beersheba under the Most Reverend Archbishop of Aristovoulos of Madaba in the presence of the President of the Nazareth Community Mr Bassim Asfour, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel Mr Cezar Marjieh, the representative of the Greek Embassy to Tel Aviv Mr Nikolaos Mavroedis and the representative of Russia to Israel Mr Vladimir Victorov.

Before Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Isaiah 7,14 / Matt. 1,23), Isaiah prophesized and the Evangelist Matthew interprets.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Reverend Christians and pilgrims

The grace of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed the Virgin Mary has gathered us all in this holy place of the biblical city of Nazareth to celebrate the great and redeeming mystery of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, as the psalmist says: “Sing unto the Lord, bless His Name; proclaim from day to day the good tidings of His salvation” (Ps 95,1).

These words of David, “the salvation of God”, are no other than the reply of Archangel Gabriel to the wondering Mariam “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1,34), “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1,35).

Both the Old and the New Testament are the holy history, the revelation, the revealing of the eternal wisdom and will of God, which is no other than “the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16,25), which was announced to the Virgin Mary, revealed in Christ and preached by the Apostles. This is the One who “shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1,32). The greeting of the Archangel Gabriel, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1,28), and Mariam’s words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1,38), made Mariam the Mother of God, a partaker and contributor to “the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever” (Romans 16,25-27), Saint Paul preaches. And in more detail; this mystery has been revealed now, and it has been confirmed by the prophesies in the scriptures and has become known to all the nations by God’s command, so that they may display the obedience befitting to faith. Such an example of obedience of faith was the Virgin Mariam, obeying the words of Archangel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1,38). “Obedience is displayed by faith, not by much knowledge. And when God commands to obey, one should not examine how”, Saint John of Damascus says.

Moreover, the Lord Himself “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5,9), while the Virgin Mariam was “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tim. 3,9). That is why the Archangel told her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus” (Luke 1,30-31). Saint Theophylaktos says about this, “Righteously He was called Jesus, who came for the salvation of our race; for this name in Greek means salvation, therefore Jesus means salvation”.

But what is the salvation, and what does the word saviour mean? “Salvation” is the correction of the foremother Eve’s fault, as Saint John of Damascus says, “Rejoice, Mary, thou the only one blessed among women, who has corrected Eve’s fault”. “Rejoice the only one blessed among women, thou who has raised the humble race of the fallen women”. “Rejoice, for through you we have been saved from an unspeakable curse and have been filled with joy”.

“Saviour” means the new Adam, that is God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was conceived in flesh from the Holy Spirit by the pure flesh of the Virgin Mary. “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace”, thou who are above all joy and name, from whom the unspeakable joy Christ, is born unto the world and has become the healing of Adam’s sorrow”, Saint John of Damascus exclaims.

 Adam’s sorrow is the sin, the death, which befell upon humankind through the first created Adam, while salvation is bestowed through Jesus Christ, who is the “healing”, the new Adam, who was born unto the world, the Son and Word of God. He was conceived in a manner incomprehensible to any mind from the pure flesh of the Virgin Mary, that is why the hymnographer of the Church says, “Today the preludes of universal joy move us to sing the prefestal hymn; for behold Gabriel cometh, bringing the good tidings to the Virgin, and shall cry to her: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Apolytikion).

It is noteworthy that the grace Mariam received from God is the same grace that God has given to the members of the Church, “Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1,23) according to Paul. In other words, in the most blessed Virgin Mary the Theotokos, we see the mystery of the Church which God loved and sanctified, “as His bride” (cf. Eph. 5,32). “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3,29), John the Evangelist says. The bride is the humankind, which is wed to Christ through the Virgin Mary, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says.

This event, my dear ones, shows the strong bond of the mystery of the Virgin Theotokos and of the mystery of the Church. That is why Saint John of Damascus exclaims, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, through whom we have become members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”.

We praise and magnify today the Virgin Mary who received the annunciation, “of the salvation of God” and ask her and the theologian John of Damascus: Extend thy mercy most pure Lady, to those who know thee, and look favourably down upon thine servants and their works, and guide them in the path of peace, for all people’s eyes are turned unto thee in hope, and have your intercession to your Son and God and our God, to whom be all glory the power and the might, together with His Father without beginning, and the Holy Spirit of the same one essence, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Have a blessed Lent and a holy Pascha, through which Adam returned to Paradise”.

At the end of the Liturgy, there was a supplication for the donors of the renovation of the shrine and the whole Church, followed by the scouts’ parade.

A small reception followed in the hall of the Metropolis.

At noon, a meal was hosted by the Holy Metropolis in a restaurant in the city. His Beatitude addressed those present at the meal through His following address:

“Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1,28).

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth,

Honourable President of the Ecclesiastical Council and respected members,

Dear companions

Today our holy Church celebrates the great universal event of the Annunciation of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and the Adoration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Annunciation of the Theotokos is the “chapter of the salvation of humankind”, while the Precious Cross refers to the salvation of the souls of the people. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8,36) the Lord says. “Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven” (Ps. 85,11), the psalmist proclaims.

This message of truth and righteousness is proclaimed by the Gospel of Christ, which has been preached all over the world by the Holy Apostles of Christ. The Mother of all Churches, our Church of Jerusalem has received this Gospel, as the holy consignment from the Holy Apostles, especially from its first Hierarch, James, the Brother of God.

We say this, because Christ says, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12,46). This light was granted to the world by the Mother of God, who is praised and magnified today. This unwaning light shines in Christ and through Christ in His Church, and in the Church of Jerusalem, which is founded upon the redeeming blood of the Son of God on the Cross.

This event of the mystery of the Divine Providence and reverence is witnessed throughout the centuries by the Christian presence in the Holy Land, in the cities of Jerusalem Bethlehem and Nazareth.

No one can deny nor refute this truth, that is why we, my dear ones preach and confess the God of love and utmost philanthropy, the Sun of Righteousness and peace and are called to remain steadfast and unshakable in our holy mission. This is what the incarnate from the pure flesh of the Virgin Mary Son of God ordered His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5,16).

We do not exaggerate in saying that the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the guarantee of the safekeeping of our faith, intact and unblemished, and the undivided unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the Holy place of the Church of Jerusalem, at the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate, “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1,17). And in the blessed place of Nazareth, the Virgin Mary became a receiver of God’s grace, hearing the words, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace”.

Many happy and peaceful returns, and a Blessed Pascha!”

Following this, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth addressed His Beatitude as follows:

“Your Beatitude, Father and Master,

 “Today is the Gospel of joy, virgin festival, those below are joined to those above, Adam is renewed, or Eve is freed from the first sorrow”! The philanthropy of our Triune God towards us who are made of earth is an inexplicable and unspeakable mystery! The “eternal secret and unknown to angels” through our Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, to us on earth was revealed here, in the Holy City of Nazareth through the Archangel of the Heavenly Powers Gabriel, who was sent to “bring… the word of salvation”.

 Today we welcome, our Father and Patriarch, like another Archangel Gabriel “proclaiming the word of truth”, sealing the archangelic hymn “Hail, thou who art full of grace” and presiding over the Feast!

 Your Beatitude, we express from the bottom of our hearts gratitude to Your grace, for everything you have contributed to the support of this God-given province. The renovation works in the Holy Shrine of the Annunciation and in the Metropolitan Holy Church of Saint George, following the blessing and exhortation of Your Beatitude, are commemorated here, works which will remain indelible in time, testifying to the glorious governing of the Church of Jerusalem by Your Holy Beatitude.

 Your Beatitude, we wholeheartedly pray that the Lord our God, through the intercessions of the Most Gracious Theotokos Mary and the Archangel Gabriel, grant You good health to continue the wise steering of the mental ship of the Mother of all Churches, the Holy Zion! Many returns.”

From Secretariat-General

Source: Patriarchate of Jerusalem