When the All-holy Virgin had completed the fourteenth year after her birth and was entering her fifteenth year, after having spent eleven years living and serving in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could not remain in the Temple but was required to be betrothed and enter into marriage. To the great surprise of the priests, the All-holy Virgin answered that she had dedicated her life to God and that she desired to remain a virgin until death, not wanting to enter into marriage with anyone! Then according to God’s providence and inspiration, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, in agreement with the other priests, gathered twelve unmarried men from the tribe of David, so that they might entrust the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and care for her. She was entrusted to Joseph of Nazareth, who was her kinsman. In the house of Joseph, the All-holy Virgin continued to live as she did in the Temple of Solomon, occupying her time in the reading of sacred Scripture, in prayer, in godly thoughts, in fasting, and in handiwork. She rarely went anywhere outside the house and was uninterested in worldly matters and events. She spoke very little to anyone, if at all, and never without special need. She most often associated with Joseph’s two daughters. When the fullness of time had come, as prophesied by Daniel the Prophet, and when God was pleased to fulfill His promise to the banished Adam and to the prophets, the great Archangel Gabriel appeared in the chamber of the All-holy Virgin. This occurred, as some Church writers have related, precisely at the same moment that she held open the book of the Prophet Isaiah and was contemplating his great prophecy: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son! (Isaiah 7:14). Gabriel appeared in all of his angelic brightness and saluted her: Rejoice, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee! (Luke 1:28), and the rest, as it is written in the Gospel of the blessed Luke. With this angelic annunciation and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin, the salvation of mankind and the restoration of all creation began. The history of the New Testament was opened by the words of the Archangel Gabriel: Rejoice, thou that art highly favored. This shows that the New Testament signified joy to mankind and to all created things. Therefore the Annunciation is considered not only a great feast but also a joyful feast.
- Hymn of Praise
- Theophanes the Cretan and the Iconography of the Annunciation (Courtesy of The Friends of Mount Athos: Annual Report (2012): 40-47.)