About the Fountainhead of Our Salvation


        Brothers and sisters,


        Today is the great feast of the Annunciation, which our Holy Church, in the Apolytikion or Dismissal Troparion of the day, defines as “the fountainhead of our salvation.”  By this she means that the present feast is the beginning, the source, the root of our deliverance from sin, the curse, and death.  From the Annunciation follow the Nativity of Christ; His Baptism, Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension into the heavens; the descent of the Holy Spirit; and the establishment of the New Testament Church.  In other words, the seed planted at the Annunciation grew up into a mighty tree, which has spread its branches throughout the world, shading all mankind with our redemption.

        In the center of the temple lies our superb icon of the Annunciation.  Gaze upon it and meditate deeply upon what you see, dear brothers and sisters.  Behold the most holy Virgin, her face radiant with divine illumination, her eyes full of spiritual depth like the eyes of no other maiden.  Behold the Archangel Gabriel, prince of all the hosts of heaven, majestic with celestial dignity, yet rushing to accomplish his greatest mission.  Behold also what your physical eyes cannot see, but which is hinted at by all the subtle means iconography employs:  the unoriginate Father, Who has deigned to send down to us His beloved Son; the only-begotten Son, ready to do the Father’s will; and the overshadowing Spirit, descending upon the Virgin.  Do not hurry away from the scene, but take it into your soul, so that you can return to it noetically even when you depart from the temple.

        And what is the meaning of the mystery the icon portrays?  Saint Paul explains it to his disciple Timothy like this:  Without controversy great is the mystery of piety:  God was manifest in the flesh.[1]  The mystery is manifest, it is seen, and yet it remains unseen, and is hidden.  Only the all-seeing trihypostatic Divinity can fully perceive it, and fully understands how and why the Son of God becomes the Son of man.  Although he proclaims the mystery, the holy Archangel Gabriel does not fully understand.  Still less, at this point, does the Virgin fathom it, for all the unmatched profundity of her soul.  Nevertheless, she does not question, she does not argue, but commits herself without reservation to the will of God.  While living in the temple, she has spent years studying the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the Messiah.  She has some sense of the trials, the grief – as well as the joys – that must await His Mother.  Therefore, although she is well acquainted with the archangel from her years in the temple, her soul is full of trepidation.  But she knows also that it is through faith and trust in God, and submission to His will, that all good and great deeds are accomplished.  And so, at the Annunciation we see perfect obedience to God the Father not only in the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit, and in the Archangel, but in the Virgin as well.

        Besides obedience, we see self-emptying in the scene, in the great mystery of godliness.  The only-begotten Son, the Effulgence and express Image of the Father, lowers Himself from His throne at the right hand of Majesty and assumes the form of a servant.  In this form He accomplishes our redemption and shows us the path to salvation.  The supreme Archangel humbly speaks the word to the Virgin and does not step back until she replies with much self-abasement, Be it unto me according to thy word.  The immaculate Virgin hears the angel speak praise to her such as no other ever heard, crying, Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with thee:  blessed art thou among women! but despite her perfection, or rather, because of it, she is troubled at his saying, and in lowliness of spirit casts in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  And even the location of the Annunciation proclaims the self-emptying, for it takes place in the hovel of a poor carpenter.

        Lastly, dear Christians, as we contemplate the icon of the Annunciation, let us ask ourself:  Who is it that becomes incarnate on this day?  Is it not the Son of God, the spotless, perfect Radiance and Image of the Father?  Who is it that announces the glad tidings?  Is it not a bodiless angel?  And who is it that receives the word of the Incarnation, and gives flesh to the Incarnate One?  Is it not the immaculate one, purest of maidens?  And so, it is purity that hedges about “the fountainhead of our salvation” on every side.  Our salvation begins with supernal purity, is laid hold of by those struggling for purity, and is crowned by the attainment of purity of heart before God on the part of those who reach the goal of the race set before us.  Therefore, as we contemplate the feast, let us strive to cleanse our mind from everything that defiles its purity:  vain imaginings, shameful thoughts, unclean desires, self-exaltation, the demeaning of others, anger, envy, resentment, pride, and all the other sinful passions.  Likewise, let us learn from the Annunciation submission to the will of God, watchfulness over our heart, and honesty of intention before the face of the Lord:  the inward dispositions that are “the fountainhead of the salvation” of our individual souls, as the supremely festive day of Christ’s Incarnation is the ever-flowing fountainhead of the salvation of the whole world.

        Unto our gracious God, Who descended on this day into the womb of the Virgin and became man, be all glory!  Amen.


[1] I Tim. 3:16