The Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
When Mary the Virgin was about fourteen years old, the Archangel Gabriel came to Joseph’s dwelling, where she was living, and said to her, ‘Rejoice, thou Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.’ Receiving assurance that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God Himself, she answered in humility, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ Immediately, the Holy Spirit came upon her, the power of the Most High overshadowed her, and the Incarnation, long awaited by the whole creation, took place: He who contains the whole universe consented to be contained in the womb of one woman, the most holy Theotokos.
The Church teaches us that it was within the holy Virgin’s power to refuse the divine conception: her knowing and willing acceptance, the consummation of the faith of the whole righteous remnant of Israel, shows us that our very salvation is the fruit of the cooperation (synergia) of human faithfulness with God’s saving grace.
Carrying in her womb the Savior of the Universe, the Virgin went to the hills of Judea to stay with her kinswoman Elizabeth, who six months before had conceived in her old age (by Zacharias the priest) St John the Forerunner. As the holy Virgin approached, the child John leaped in his mother’s womb for joy, prophesying the coming of Emmanuel. Feeling the prophecy, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and blessed the holy Mary and the fruit of her womb. And Mary in turn glorified God, saying ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior’ (Luke ch. 1).
New Confessor/Hieromartyr Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow (1925)
Born in 1865, he was tonsured a monk in 1891, and consecrated a Bishop in 1891. From 1900, he was Bishop of Alaska, with oversight of the Church throughout North America. In America, he consecrated the first Orthodox monastery on the continent and worked tirelessly to unite all ethnic groups as one flock. In 1907 he was made Bishop of Yaroslavl and returned to Russia.
In 1917, he was elected to be the first Patriarch of Moscow since the abolition of the Patriarchate by Tsar Peter the Great more than 200 years before. Almost immediately, the Russian Church was plunged into new and terrible persecution as an atheist and totalitarian government seized control. Patriarch Tikhon always sought not to quarrel with the Communist government, but his refusal to deny his faith or his Church marked him in their eyes as an enemy. In 1925 he died under mysterious circumstances, and is generally thought to have been murdered by the Soviets. He is commemorated as a Confessor, and by many as a Martyr also.
Note: because his commemoration falls on the Feast of the Annunciation, his service is usually transferred to the day before or after the Feast.