Thursday, April 5, 2012

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for Annunciation 2012

The Arabic original, given at the parish in Mina, Tripoli can be found here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

On this blessed feast, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, by the Angel Gabriel, we repeat and chant, "announce the good news, from day to day, of our God's salvation." Beloved, where does this joy come from on this feast? We have to understand the meaning of our feasts through our hymns. We say in the hymn for the feast, "Today is the cornerstone of our salvation and the declaration of the mystery from before the ages, for the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin and through grace Gabriel brings good news."

Today is the cornerstone of our salvation. That means, it is the beginning of our salvation. Our salvation comes from God who came down to us, from heaven to earth, in order to save us from all our sins, from everything we fear-- and the greatest thing we fear is death. People commit many sins because of their fear of death. So says the Apostle Paul in his Epistle for today, "He came to us to save us, we who are enslaved out of fear of death." Joy comes because the Lord comes to us from heaven. He seeks us out by way of this angel who brings good news to this pure woman, Mary. Our Church puts an emphasis on calling the Virgin Mary "Mother of God" because she gave birth to Christ our God. Thus, the "Feast of the Nativity" is the feast celebrating the appearance of the Lord Jesus as a child, while the "Feast of the Annunciation" is the feast most specifically celebrating the Divine Incarnation. This is what distinguishes us Christians, that our God became flesh. He came in the body and shared our nature in order to teach us how we must live.

We might ask, "Who is the model for a holy person?" The model is the Virgin Mary who was distinguished by her purity, by her humility, by her obedience to Christ, to the Word of God and not to the word of the world. The Christian obeys Christ's word. This is our faith and it was embodied by the Virgin Mary. This is why we celebrate this feast and take pride in this Virgin who teaches us purity, who teaches us truthfulness not lies, who teaches us obedience to God and humility. She is the one who said, "Here I am, the handmaiden of God. May it be to me according to your word."

If we come to resemble the Virgin Mary, what happens? The following happens: The angel came to her and said, "Rejoice! Peace be upon you O full of Grace, the Lord is with you." So if we come to resemble-- men and women-- the Virgin Mary, we also in turn acquire this message from heaven that says to us: Rejoice and be filled with grace from God who will save you, who will give you peace, who will give you true joy, not as the world today gives it. True joy comes from God and so we are joyous in this Great Fast which prepares us to receive with joy Christ's passions and resurrection, amen.

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