The Annunciation – A Call to Faith in God’s Providence and to Charity

Address by His Grace Bishop Partenij of Antania, Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, at the beginning of the prayer vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation at the Monastery of the Most Pure in Kichevo, on March 24 / April 6, 2024, Year of our Savior

Your Eminences,

Your Grace,

Very Reverend Archimandrites,

Venerable Fathers,

Beloved brothers and sisters,

Finding ourselves under the maternal omophorion of the Queen Mother and witnessing the deeds of Her love, we cannot but rejoice with glorious and inexpressible joy. After She brought to this Holy Abode the esteemed hierarchs, His Eminence the Metropolitan of Imvros and Tenedos, Mr. Cyril, and His Eminence the Metropolitan of Didymoteichon, Orestiada, and Soufli, Mr. Damaskinos, yesterday, today She delights and honors us with the coming of yet another dear brother, His Grace Bishop Marko of Delchevo-Kamenica. And is there greater spiritual rejoicing when brothers commune in love within the unity of faith, in the one Holy Church of God?! Yesterday, we were blessed to enjoy the love-filled words of the Holy Bishop of Didymoteichon, who addressed us with a wide and warm heart, as well as from the tender voice of the Holy Bishop of Imvros, who with a soul overflowing with gentleness offered joyful greetings to the Most Holy from the third section of the Akathist. Tonight, we are honored to have with us the prayers and blessings of the Holy Bishop of Delchevo-Kamenica, who kindly responded to our request and graced us with his esteemed presence.

In the midst of Great Lent, a time of spiritual renewal and transformation, we are gathered together, in one spirit and one love, to direct our thoughts, prayers, feelings, and gratitude towards Her, Who brought to us the Renewer and Resurrector of our souls, the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of Light. It is She, as the mediator between Heaven and Earth, who stands as the eternal example of obedience and faith in God’s providence, as revealed to us in this radiant feast of Divine joy.

The Annunciation signifies a moment of cosmic change, when Heaven descends to Earth and God’s will is revealed in the fullness of His love towards creation. It is a message that not only announces the coming of the Savior but also testifies to the mystical communion and community between God and man, between the Creator and His creation. In this Divine interaction, the Virgin Mary stands out as a model for all humankind, showing that true faith and obedience to God’s Word are the path to genuine freedom and inner fulfillment.

The Annunciation also marks the moment when eternity and time meet and intertwine; when the angelic “Rejoice” echoes through the ages, reminding us of our calling to respond with faith and love to the extended merciful hand of God. In this holy mystery, the Most Holy Theotokos becomes the archetype of the Church and every believer individually, as She accepted God’s word with her whole being. Her historical “Yes” is an invitation for us, to open our hearts to Divine grace, to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the Lord, and to live according to the commandments that lead us towards life and joy. Thus, in each of us, the Word of God can be incarnated, making us bearers of Christ and beacons of hope and love in this empty and despairing world.

For, today’s celebration reminds us that our faith is not only a personal path to salvation but also a collective call to active engagement in the world through the virtues defined in the ascetic tradition of the Church. We are called to be active witnesses of God’s love and human transformation, working for good, for justice, for peace, for our fellow human beings, and for all creation. In this time of global challenges, from wars and social injustices to ecological crises, our faith and life in the Good News should lead us towards action and benevolent transformation of the world around us.

The feast of God’s Incarnation that we celebrate tonight not only presents the unparalleled honor of the Most Pure being chosen as the Mother of God but also reveals the boundless mercy of the Holy Trinity towards human nature, and thus, towards all creation. The Annunciation contains the promise of renewal and salvation, a transition from the old to the new, from melancholy to joy, from death to eternal life.

And the fact that unity and mutual love and respect are the means through which the powerful transformative power of the Holy Annunciation is realized is witnessed by our common synaxis under the protection of the Most Pure, Who blesses our communion and gladdens and soothes our hearts. Therefore, we once again express our boundless gratitude, firstly to the Mother of Light, to the holy hierarchs who truly enriched and dignified us with their presence and goodness, and to all of you, dear and beloved, who are part of this sacred event and celebration.

And now, let us join in the words of the sacred hymnographer, who calls us: “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee! From thee is the salvation, Christ our God, Who, taking upon Himself our nature, laid it upon Himself; beseech Him that our souls may be saved.”