Cleansing Fire

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The Great Feasts: The Annunciation

March 26th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

Previously here and here.

(Click on pictures to see larger images)

The Annunciation

Troparion

Today is the Fontainhead of our salvation

and the revelation of the mystery that was planed from all eternity: the

Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin and Gabriel announces this grace.

Let us join him in crying out to the Mother of God:  “Hail, O Woman full of grace!

The Lord is with you.”

Kontakion

We are your own, O Mother of God!

To you, protectress and leader, our songs of victory!

To you who saved us from danger, our hymn of thanksgiving!

In your invincible might, deliver us from all danger that we may sing to you:

“Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!”

 

This icon depicts the Archangel Gabriel, carrying a herald’s staff, greeting the Theotokos as the Angel of God appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Christ. (Luke 1:26-37). The staff held in the Archangel’s hand is the staff of a messenger.  The Greek word “Kontakion” literally means “from a pole”.  A scroll was rolled up and placed inside a pole and sent by a messenger.  The word “angel” means “messenger” and in this icon the Archangel carries the pole, which carries the message from God. In Western art Gabriel usually holds a white lily, symbol of purity and perpetual virginity.

Mary sits wearing a ‘maphorion’, a veil or large head-shawl, and slippers, her head turned towards the Archangel. Stars placed on both of her shoulders and on top of her head symbolize her ever-virgin life:  “And the Lord said to me:  This gate shall be shut. It shall not be opened and no man shall pass through it:  because the Lord God of Israel hath entered in by it.  And it shall be shut…and behold the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 44: 3-4)  She remained God’s undefiled, deified temple.

The Theotokos is shown in the icon either standing or with a pedestal under her feet.  A pedestal is a symbol of honor and is used in icons of Christ, the Theotokos, John the Baptist, and Simeon in the Presentation of Mary in the Temple icon.

The All Holy Virgin is often depicted dropping a spool of royal purple yarn in surprise at the angel’s appearance. She has been spinning for the high priest in the Temple. We read in the Protoevangelium of James that one of her duties in the Temple was to make priestly vestments. In some interpretations she has been spinning the great curtain that hung across the entrance to the Holy of Holies. In most Western versions Mary is seen surprised while at prayer, holding a book of Psalms.

The circle with rays directed at the Virgin is meant to convey the action of the Father through the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation of the Son of God within the Holy Virgin Mary who is “full of grace.”

Urgency is expressed in the figure of the Archangel Gabrielle, his legs apart as if running swiftly to deliver the message. The Virgin exhibits a gesture of perplexity and prudence in the outward palm of her hand and who, after questioning the angel, bows her head in acceptance and submission to the will of God.

Mary’s ‘Yes’ is chanted in the Akathist Hymn, referred to by some as the most beautiful song of praise in honor of the Theotokos of all times. Here is the first of 24 strophes.

An Archangel was sent from heaven to greet the Mother of God, and as he saw you assuming a body at the sound of his bodiless voice, O Lord, he stood rapt in amazement and cried out to her in these words:
Hail, O you, through whom Joy will shine forth! Hail, O you, through whom the curse will disappear!
Hail, O Restoration of the Fallen Adam! Hail, O Redemption of the Tears of Eve!
Hail, O Peak above the reach of human thought! Hail, O Depth even beyond the sight of angels!
Hail, O you who have become a Kingly Throne! Hail, O you who carry Him Who Carries All!
Hail, O Star who manifest the Sun! Hail, O Womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Hail, O you through whom creation is renewed! Hail, O you through whom the Creator becomes a Babe!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

(L) Rogier van der Weyden, 1435; (R) Philippe de Champaigne, 1644

(L) Simone Martini, 1313-1342; (R) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, England, 1850

(L) Pietro Perugino, 1489; (R) John William Waterhouse, 1914

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Source of images.

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