The Feast of the Annunciation
When Mary became of age, according to Hebrew custom of the time, she could no longer stay at the Temple, but had to either return to her parents or marry. Since Joachim and Anna had died, and Mary had proclaimed her vow of celibacy to the High Priest, it was decided to betroth her to an elderly distant relative who would protect and care for her. She, therefore, went to live in Nazareth with the elderly Joseph, who was a carpenter. Here according to tradition, while Mary was reading from the prophet Isaiah about the birth of the Messiah to a virgin, the angel Gabriel appeared to her. “And the angel came in unto her and said, “Hail, thou who art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and cast about in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.’ Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that Holy Being who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ . . . And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 28-38).
In Greek this feast is called “Εύάγγελισμός” (Evangelismos) – “the announcement of glad tidings,” because this was the first time that the glad tidings of the coming of the Saviour were proclaimed to the world. It is from this same word that we get the word Evangelist, meaning Gospel-writer, and “Evangelion” meaning Gospel. The word ‘gospel’ is old English for “good news”.
The feast of the Annunciation normally falls during the season of Great Lent, but it is still a joyous day, and always celebrated – despite the fact that it is Lent. The fast is lessened, and people can eat fish on this day.
If the feast comes on a weekday of Lent, the Divine Liturgy of the feast is served in the evening with Vespers (in some traditions). The Divine Liturgy of the Annunciation is the only celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom allowed on a weekday of Great Lent.
Troparion (Fourth Mode)
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!
Kontakion (Fourth Plagal mode)
O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!