Why is this present day known as the Annunciation? Obviously because of some good news for us. What is this news?1
It’s that news that the Only-Begotten Son of God, the eternal Word, by Whom everything visible and invisible is created and held in existence, has come down to us poor ones on earth, has descended to adorn Himself with our nature, has become a Man like us in all respects but sin; and this isn’t just something temporary, be it for a short or long time, but for all eternity.
It’s that news that this incarnate Son of God will do everything necessary for our salvation: He will illumine us with the light of truth, show us the path to eternal life, take our sins upon Himself and atone for them by His sufferings, descend into the grave, dispel for us the darkness of the grave and the fear of death by His Resurrection, and grant us the Holy Spirit and with Him all the fullness of the gifts of grace, so that having been cleansed from all defilement, we become capable of living with the angels in Heaven.
It’s that news that by means of the Son of God’s unprecedented condescension to us and union with us, we have been changed from enemies of God into God’s beloved friends again; from exiles from Paradise, strangers on the earth, into heirs of Heaven and eternal blessings; that news that all the disasters that fill the world that surround us will irrevocably pass away and everything will return to its primitive perfection, so that the inanimate creation itself that now sighs together with us will be liberated from the heavy work of resisting corruption2 into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
See how much joy and hope this day brings us! Compare all the joyous news we can get from someone, and it all turns out to be small and insignificant. Joyous is the day when a doctor tells one who is suffering from a heavy disease and who has lost hope: “Calm yourself, for your infirmity has taken a beneficial turn, and you will certainly be healthy.” Much more is being told to us now, for it’s said that not only will all sicknesses of body and soul that the whole of mankind hopelessly suffers from disappear forever in the end, but even death itself, that overpowering enemy, will be defeated and destroyed, and we will again become pure, bright, and immortal.
Joyous is the day when those who are under siege by enemies and are pushed to the extreme learn that the enemy that besieged their city has lost its power, that it has been driven out and scattered, that they have only to enjoy the fruits of victory. More has been announced to all of us now, for it’s announced that our ancient and irreconcilable enemy, who drove us out of Paradise with deceit and dragged us to hell with all his strength, has been struck on the head, that he’s bound by the great Leader and Victor, that he no longer has any authority over us, so that every believer can safely trample this infernal dragon.
Joyous is the day when a son who has lost all his father’s love, been driven out of his home, deprived of his birthright and all rights to inheritance, hears that his father, out of the goodness of his heart, has forgiven him and is ready to receive him into his love and give him everything he has. More has happened to us: We, who were rejected for our sin and were under anger and a curse, are reconciled now to our Heavenly Father; we become His beloved sons again; we enter into all the rights of children and are destined to take possession of the Heavenly Kingdom.
Think of any joyous news you like—it can all be found within the good news brought to us today by the archangel.
It is meet and right that this day is called the day of the Annunciation; it is meet and right that Heaven and Earth are now called to joy and glorification of the Lord, for Heaven and Earth will truly participate in His mercy and our triumph.
But, my brethren, rejoicing and praising the Lord for His great and boundless mercy, let us not forget that the good news is only completely actualized and only reaches its goal when, having received it, we conform to it and act precisely as it requires.
No matter how much you tell a son wondering through others’ homes and foreign countries that he’s been forgiven by his father, if this son doesn’t give up his prodigality, if he doesn’t go to his father and doesn’t start behaving as befits the heir of the king, the good news remains inactive for him and doesn’t bless him.
No matter how much you inform those who are under siege of the powerlessness of their enemy, of the possibility of defeating him and enjoying freedom—if they forget about their sad situation and instead of fighting and resisting they open the gates to their enemy and allow him to do whatever he wants, then the good news of his languishing will remain in vain, and the enemy will gather strength and enslave them again.
No matter how much you reassure a desperately ill man that his serious illness will pass, that the danger of death has passed, if he doesn’t listen to you and doesn’t start doing what’s necessary for his recovery, and especially if he does the opposite and indulges in malicious intemperance, then the good news of his healing remains fruitless, and his disease will return with death.
It’s the same with the good news that’s been brought to us now. Everything—the Son of God’s descent to Earth, His incarnation for our sake, and His death and Resurrection for us—all of this remains in vain if we don’t give up our sinful life and begin to behave as our new, great, and holy calling demands. In this case, true Christians who follow the Savior Who descended from Heaven and do His will, will accept everything that He brought and acquired for them, will achieve eternal blessedness and dwell with Him in His Father’s Kingdom; and we, who are negligent about our salvation, who don’t follow His commandments and footsteps, who continue to walk through the thickets of sin and lusts—even though we have been brought thee glad tidings, will be incapable of doing anything, will remain in our sins, and will appear in the end as having nothing.
My brethren, let us not stop like little children, at the good news of our salvation, no matter how great and joyful it is; let us rather seek to understand what it requires of us and what we must do for our salvation. Let us then fulfill all that’s required, that the good news might turn into a good deed. Then, and only then, will this day truly be for us the day of the Annunciation. May it come to pass for all of us by the grace of the Lord! Amen.