May It Be Done Unto Me - A Sermon for the Annunciation (2021)
Today, the One Who was begotten of the Father before all time and all creation is begotten in time of the Virgin-Mother; and we are reborn, adopted as children of God. The Uncreated Creator becomes a created being; we who are created beings taste Uncreated Life. The God, Who transcends all, takes upon Himself a human body and soul, subject to suffering and pain; we who are subject to sinful passions are graced with dispassion. The Incorruptible fashions Himself in a corruptible body; we who are corrupted by sin are imparted incorruptibility. The Deathless One subjects Himself even unto the death we created; we mortals are raised up into immortality. To say it all: God becomes man; men become God.
Today, the Annunciation, is the beginning of this great mystery of our deification. Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, which we are awaiting, is the middle of it. That Day when our Lord comes again in glory, raising us up from the dead, is the end of this mystery, which will dawn forth a new beginning for all eternity.
Let us remember Who it is that has done all this for our sake. Let us recall His pre-eternal glory with the Father and the Spirit, as we see Him formed in the womb today as a tiny fetus, sharing our human nature, sharing our weakness, our frailty, our suffering, our death. This is the mystery which has been hidden, even from the angels, from before the ages: God Incarnate. He has implanted Himself in our human nature, as the Theologian John declares: “The Word became flesh, and dwells in us,” not just with us, but within us.
How has this mystery come to pass? By the ineffable good-will of the Father; by the flaming desire of the Son; and by the concord of the Holy Spirit. Is this all? No! But this great mystery has also come to pass by the participation of humanity, represented in the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos.
God expresses, through the voice of the Archangel Gabriel, His burning desire to be utterly united to man. This is the purpose upon which all things hang. This is the reason for our being created. This is the mystery hidden from before the ages. His desire is great; His expectation is beyond containment; this is the moment He has awaited from before all time; His delight and joy move Him outside Himself as He seeks to enter into our lowly human life.
The Virgin hears His voice, understands His purpose, is moved by His desire; thus, she consents. Behold a great mystery! By the free-will offering of her whole self to God in love, humility, and obedience, she gives free reign to the desire and will of God Almighty. If she said no, God would not have become incarnate within her, violating her freedom. If she refused, God would decline. But let us not speculate if He would have still, somewhere else, within someone else, become incarnate. For she spoke the word with her whole heart: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” She finished speaking; God was conceived in her womb.
Her words are the essence of the Gospel. In one sentence we have the solution to all our pains, sorrows, and sufferings. This is true theology, a prayer of whole-hearted submission to the unconquerable will of God, a great tool for our ascetic struggle.
In whatever comes upon us, if we utter these words and remind ourselves that we cannot war against the will and providence of God without killing our souls, then we would find peace, rest, glory, joy, the cessation of sorrow, an end to disobedience, pride, anguish, and self-love.
Have we been insulted? Let us remember these words, and accept the indignity. Are we undergoing great pain, of body or soul? Let us surrender to what God has allowed to come upon us, uttering these words. Why not utter these words? We are going to encounter suffering and adversity anyway; we are going to undergo painful circumstances nonetheless. If we seek to evade them, we will only wear ourselves out, and frustrate ourselves even more, when we see ourselves still overcome by pain; we will double our torment. But if we utter the Virgin’s words, we will find rest and peace.
Has someone come to you at an inconvenient time, asking something difficult of you? Utter these words in your soul, and you also will bear God within you; for you will immerse yourself in sacrificial love, and God is love. Have you been corrected by your spiritual father, or rebuked by your spouse, or exhorted by your brother? Bow the head of your mind in humility and formulate these words within, and you will grow into Christ. Has something unforeseen come upon you—a significant change in place, or career, or obedience, or health—demanding your submission and the loss of the comfort of familiarity? Utter these words to God in prayer, and the Holy Spirit will overshadow you with His grace, accomplishing within you even the impossible and supernatural.
If we remember on what occasion these words—“may it be done unto me according to thy word”—were spoken, we will find even more rest in them. For they were spoken right before God became incarnate within the womb. This Same One came forth from the womb, made Himself subject to suffering. He endured hunger, thirst, pain, mockery, insult, blasphemy, torture, death. He was tempted in all things like us, underwent the suffering of temptation, yet without sin, without passionate reaction.
Christ was tempted by sensual pleasure and excess; He overcame. He was tempted by worldly power and riches; He spit upon them. He was tempted by vainglory; He saw through the delusion. He was tempted by mockery and insult and blows; He remained unmoved, His love unchanged. He was tempted by agony, darkness, sorrow, God-forsakenness; He painfully surrendered and united His human will to the divine will, and He, the King of angels, as a Man, humbly received the comfort of angels. He was tempted by physical pain; He submitted peacefully. He was tempted by human betrayal, abandonment; He was tempted by being misunderstood; He put all His hope and trust in His Father, knowing the fickleness of man.
Such is the divine-humanity of our Lord. Such is our example, and, more than this, such is our refuge in times of temptations. Let us call to mind the Lord’s true humanity, how He suffered, how He overcame, how He has opened the way to us, that we might enter into His victory. Let us flee to the refuge of our Lord’s humanity, enduring suffering with Him, as He suffers continually with us, and we shall find within it His divine power.
He loves you beyond comprehension. He desires your eternal glory an infinitely greater amount than you ever can. He wants to save you, to heal you, to perfect you, to unite you to Himself, to fill you with His life. But He also wants to take you upon the path of sorrow and suffering, upon which He Himself walked, that you might be even more thankful when the peace and ineffable delight and unutterable stillness of His grace pours forth from your midst, overfilling you. He asks you to endure a fleeting moment of pain and discomfort that you might inherit His very own life of unending, ever-growing, ever-ascending delight and bliss. Suffer with Him now for a time; reign with Him for eternity. Offer your will to Him; and His will to effect a divine miracle within you will be seen and felt by you.
His Mother surrendered to God with the words, “may it be done unto me according to Thy word.” Her Perfect Son surrendered to the Father with the same intention, “not My will, O Father, but Thine be done.” If we utter these words to ourselves and to God in prayer at all times, forcing ourselves to endure that which He knows is best for us, for our salvation and deification, then we will gradually lay down our lives for God’s sake—Who laid down His life for our sake—submitting ourselves into His providence and all-good will. Then we will become true children of the Father, ever-more united to Christ His Son, filled with His Spirit of grace, and will be enthroned in the eternal kingdom of the Holy Trinity, ever praising our One God, together with the Mother of God, all the angels, and all the saints, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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