It is not at all easy to distinguish the borders between periods in the fluid and unbroken element of human life. Moreover, the incommensurability of successive historical cycles is quite manifestly revealed. New life themes come to light, new forces start to make themselves felt, new spiritual centers form. Someone’s very first impression is that the late fourth century signifies some indisputable boundary in the history of the Church, in the history of Christian culture. Someone may conditionally define this boundary as the beginning of Byzantinism.
Indeed, the Church always stresses the permanence of her faith through the ages, from the very beginning. This identity, since the Apostolic times, is the most conspicuous sign and token of right faith-always the same. Yet, "antiquity" by itself is not an adequate proof of the true faith.
A glorious vision was granted to the Prophet. By the hand of the Lord the prophet Ezekiel was taken to the valley of death, a valley of despair and desolation. There was nothing alive there. There was nothing but dry bones, and very dry they were indeed. This was all that had been left of those who were once living. Life was gone. And a question was put to the Prophet: "Can these dry bones live again? Can life come back once more?" The human answer to this question would have been obviously, no. Life never comes back. What is once dead, is dead forever. Life cannot come out of dust and ashes. "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" (2 Sam. 14:14).
The Annunciation is "the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery which is from eternity: the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth good tidings of grace" (Troparion of the Feast of the Annunciation). The divine will has been declared and proclaimed by the archangel. But the Virgin was not silent. She responded to the divine call, responded in humility and faith. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."