Tag Archives: Annunciation

The Christmas Glow of “God with Us”

by V.K. McCarty

Nativity icon

All this took place to fulfill what had been said by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him “Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”—Matt. 1:22-23

May the Lord bless you with peace, and good will, and joy. From Matthew’s Gospel: “Now, the birth of Jesus took place in this way” (1:18). Sometimes I wonder if Christmas doesn’t actually start—and Advent end—the moment we hear those words in Scripture, they are so delightfully familiar. And the Nativity music and the beautiful troparions and the perfume of Frankincense are filling our days, and the sidewalks smell like Christmas trees for sale, and traditional holiday treats are baking, and colored lights bless us from everywhere—here we are at the threshold of God’s unsearchable gift to us of the Incarnation in the birth of the little Christ Child. For soon, so soon we will celebrate the glorification of the Nativity in the flesh by the Most Holy Virgin Mary of our Lord Jesus Christ. And: “the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth contains him in a cave, Him who is utterly uncontainable” (Kontakion of Holy Nativity, Third Tone).

And yet, we do hear a lot of fretting from Joseph in the story as it is told in the Gospel of Matthew. Another of the traditional kontakions explains it for us: “The chaste-minded Joseph, who before had within him a storm of doubting thoughts, now beholds all-glorious things within the divine cave (Kontakion IV, Akathist Hymn to the Nativity of Christ). Another way to reflect on his concern is to see in it Joseph working out his honorable respect of Mary as sacred to God; perhaps that his very young fiancé is already dedicated to God at this point.

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Woman of Peace, Temple of War

by Matthew J. Milliner

Photo: Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces (Mil.ru)

The Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces was sprinkled with holy water by Patriarch Kirill in 2020, but that does not mean it is holy. It has forsaken the elegant curves of a traditional Russian dome to deliberately resemble nuclear missiles (which Russian priests have cheerily blessed). The classic two-dimensional apse mosaic of Christ has been swapped out for a tacky sculpture, defying centuries of Orthodox wisdom which traditionally eschewed three-dimensional representation. Defending the six billion ruble (US million) expenditure, one Orthodox priest said that “metal, wood, glass and talent were offered practically free, for a few kopecks. People worked, worked hard for the glory of God.” His statement calls to mind another priest, Aaron: “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Exodus 32:24).

The Virgin Mary of course features prominently in the cathedral mosaics, and will be especially honored today, the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25). She is commandeered as the sponsor of the third Rome (Moscow) just as she once sponsored the second Rome (Constantinople) before that. Our Lady of Kazan, “the most widely revered icon in late imperial Russia” (322), is especially emphasized, as is the icon of She Who Reigns, named because she was discovered after the abdication of Tsar Nichols II in 1917. Both images deliberately afford a link between Tsarist and post-Soviet Russia.

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Why the Incarnation Is Rational

by Aristotle Papanikolaou  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

It is the Annunciation, the Euaggelismos, the Announcing of the Good News to Mary that she will bear the Christ child whom she will name Jesus; the day of the Incarnation, the day God became human in the form of a man. We celebrate this story on March 25th.

Our Orthodox tradition very much affirms that on this day God became human, that Jesus who was conceived on this day is paradoxically God and man. This belief in the incarnation of God in the man Jesus—as it says in the creed, “incarnate by the Holy Spirit,” that is by the power of the Holy Spirit—is not an easy one to affirm. In fact, I would say that over the past few centuries, it has fallen into disfavor. One reason is that a scientific standard of truth has prevailed since the 17th century and the idea that God can become human is something that has never been observed before, nor is it something that is scientifically verifiable. In an age where trust is given to that which can be verified, that for which we can provide proof or evidence, the belief in God becoming human in a particular individual is something which simply cannot meet that standard of truth. Even before the Scientific Revolution, it wasn’t something easy to believe.  A study of early Christian writings reveals that the Greek philosophers did not find such a belief very reasonable.

Yet much is at stake in its affirmation or its denial. What I wish to suggest is that what is at stake is the very essence of Christianity itself. Continue Reading…