Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Conversation between Mary and the Archangel, Gabriel

Scene:  Nazareth
Time:  About 4:30
Dramatis personae:  Mary, a young, unwed though betrothed maiden who has spent the last 12 years of her life in service of the Lord;  Gabriel, an Archangel, Captain of the Heavenly Hosts, and messenger of the Most High God.

Gabriel (alone and thinking to himself):  How is it that He Who is in the highest and incomprehensible shall be born of a virgin?  He Whose throne is Heaven and earth His footstool, how shall He be contained in a woman's womb?  How was he pleased to be incarnate of her by a word only, He Whom the six-winged Seraphim and those of many eyes cannot gaze upon?  He who comes is the Word of God?  Why then do I hesitate, and not address the maiden as I was commanded, saying:  'Rejoice, O full of grace, the grace of the Lord is with thee?  Rejoice, O spotless Virgin!  Rejoice, O groomless bride!  Rejoice, O Mother of life; blessed is the fruit of your womb?'

Sees Mary in the courtyard and appears to her and speaks.

Gabriel:  Hail, Mary!  Full of Grace!  Rejoice, O unseeded land!  Rejoice, O burning bush!  Rejoice, O depth inaccessible to vision!  Rejoice, O bridge leading to he havens!  Rejoice, O lofty ladder whom Jacob did behold!  Rejoice, O jar of manna! Rejoice, O dissolution of the curse!  Rejoice, O recall of Adam!  The Lord is with you!

Mary:  Truly, you have appeared to me as a man.  Why then do you utter supernatural tings saying that God shall be with me and dwell in my womb?  Tell me, how am I, then, to become a spacious place of sanctification for Him, who rides on the cherubim?  Mislead me not with deceit; for I have known no pleasure and have not approached wedlock.  How, then, shall I give birth to a son?

Gabriel:  When God so wills, the order of nature is overcome, and that which is supernatural is accomplished.  Therefore, O all-pure and holy one, believe my words. 

Mary:  Let it be unto me as you have said and I will give birth to the Incorporeal One, Who shall take a body from me so that, by His union with mankind, He may raise man to the first rank since He alone is mighty.

--Adapted from the Stichera and Doxastikon of Psalm 140 of the Vespers of the Feast of Annunciation

One of the things I have always loved about Orthodox hymnography is how much of it is framed in a conversation between a saint and the Lord, or an angel and the Lord or a saint and an angel.  Did such conversations actually take place?  Maybe, maybe not. But that is hardly the point.  The truth contained in those conversations is what matters. 

We have to remember that in the ancient world, many of the "Speeches" and "dialogues" even found in the great historians like Thucydides, Xenophon, Herodotus, Caesar, Tacitus and Livy were invented by the authors themselves.  They were not invented to deceive but to give a dramatic flavor to the events they sought to describe to their respective audiences.  Such is the case with much Byzantine hymnography.  Whether or not the conversation really took place is to miss the point.   The aim is not to supplant the Scriptures or to suggest that they are deficient but to give a dramatic edge while at the same time proclaiming the Gospel.  

In this case, the good news is that Christ will be born a man from a virgin, taking on human flesh to unite God with Man because of the separation that exists between the two because of sin.  And what a perfect time to remind the faithful of this news, especially as we are in the midst of Lent and the desire to worship the Lord's coming to Golgatha for His Crucifixion, His entombment and His Resurrection on the third day grows each day as we wait eagerly with anticipation:  That God, having become Man, died and rose again, born in humility and poverty though announced splendidly by the chief captain of the Bodiless powers.  I needed to hear this today.  I would dare say we all do.   Happy feast, everyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment