“Do not be afraid, Mary,” the Angel Gabriel said, as he appeared before the young woman, “for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to 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.” (St. Luke 1:30-33)
The holy feast of Annunciation in Orthodox Church begins on March 25, (on the 24th for Latin Catholics) and is celebrated with great reverence and joy by Christians. Annunciation is the pious occasion of the proclamation of the good news to the holy Theotokos (also known as Mary, Mother of God) and thereby to the whole universe, is one of the greatest feasts in the Orthodox Church. It marks the beginning of the entrance of Jesus Christ to the human world. St Mary or Holy Theotokos occupies preeminent position among all others saints in Orthodox Church. This title was affirmed by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in A.D 431 and there by establishing it into daily life of the Church.
Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast of Annunciation on the 25th of March. It is great celebration for people of Greece and around the world belonging to the Greek descent, since it also marks the national day of Greece (March 25 1821), when she declared independence ending 400 hundred years of the Ottoman rule. The Feast normally falls between the holy lent, yet still it is a day of joy, adn the fast is a bit limited. Fish is allowed on this day. The Divine Liturgy of the Annunciation is the only celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom allowed on a weekday of Great Lent. If some how the annunciation day falls on the same day with Easter or Pascha, then it is called ‘Kyriopascha’. It is the rare occasion when annunciation and Pascha falls on one day (March 25), which is celebrated with special rubrics (liturgical directions). But presently this kind of celebration is only possible with Finnish and Estonian Churches, since these churches observe the old styled traditional Julian or Gregorian calendars.
The feast of Annunciation is celebrated with great joy with the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in every parish which is preceded by matins service. A great vesper is also conducted on the evening before the day of the feast. In the feast of annunciation, Orthodox Christians celebrate the twin nature of Jesus Christ, the divine initiative as well as the human response.
According to the holy tradition, Mary was visited by Gabriel at the age of 15 and had come home to her parents. It is also believed that, Mary was allowed to enter the most holy place inside the church by the priest, where she was regularly visited by holy angles and provided her with all spiritual training to strengthen her mentally and physically and this enabled her to hold our savior in her womb.
The Holy Theotokos accepted the sanctified role of carrying our Lord within her and there by she played a free and supportive role in the salvation of human beings. But unlike the extended Latin theology, the Orthodox Church totally rejects the immaculate conception of the Holy Theotokos. For Orthodox Christians, Salvation is continues process, where many versions of protestant and puritan theology calls of immediate salvation and saving of the soul. Salvation is only through Jesus Christ which is beyond any question.
Among the Oriental orthodox churches, the Coptic Church celebrates the feast of Annunciation on the 29th of Baramhat (also known as Paremhat). It is the seventh month of Coptic Calendar and comes between March 10 and April 8 of the Gregorian calendar. The Armenian Orthodox Church observes the feast of Annunciation on 7th of April every year. Though the Armenian Orthodox Church has adopted the Gregorian calendar, the special inherent mechanism in the Armenian calendar differ them from rest of the churches in observing feasts and religious celebrations. But the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem and the Holy Land still follows the Julian calendar especially because of the status quo of the holy places.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebration of the Annunciation is known by the name ‘Tsinsetor’ or the Feast of Incarnation. It is celebrated on Megabit 29 of the Ethiopian Calendar (March to April). This day is considered to be the day forgiveness of mankind by the Ethiopian Church.
Annunciation is known by the term “Suboro” in Syrian Orthodox Church. It is to be noted that the feast of Annunciation is very important among Syrian and Indian Orthodox Churches. It is so important that, both Churches celebrate Divine Liturgy even if Annunciations happens to occur or holy or good Friday. Divine Liturgy or holy ‘Qurbono’ is otherwise not celebrated on Good Friday since the altar is stripped of all altar vessels and covered in black on Good Friday depicting sorrow on the death of Jesus Christ.
Annunciation is the feast of happiness and hope for the whole world, because Christ is not just for a group of believers, but for the entire humanity.
If you go: Celebrations in the Holy Land
The Feast of the Annunciation is a perfect opportunity to visit Nazareth and particularly the Church of the Annunciation and the Basilica of Annunciation. The city celebrates the angel Gabriel’s revelation to Marcy that she would conceive a child, Jesus Christ. The highlights of the feast include a special procession along Paul VI Street to the church of Annunciation in Nazareth. The Patriarch is accompanied in procession by members of the Scouts.
George Alexander is a frequent contributor to Travelujah on Orthodox Christianity. he is the Secretary and Spokesperson for the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE. For further inforamtion please visit www.theorthodoxchurch.info
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