Today, in East and West, is the feast of the Annunciation. Naturally, I rather look forward to this feast for a variety of reasons, least of which is that it is one of the most complex feasts in terms of rubrics, i.e. what you do when, how you do it, how many hymns, etc. Suffice it to say, it’s complicated. Annunciation always falls in Lent, so you have that to deal with. Then the day of the week often causes complications, like if it falls on a weekend. While these things bore the pants off most people, I find them fun to explore because this feast, in particular, throws the daily cycle for a loop. It’s an instance of the Church grabbing our attention through as seemingly mundane a thing as rubrics, for a very particular reason: this is the day God became Man.
During the festal Matins this morning here at St. Vladimir’s, there were a few instances of hurried, frantic whisperings between ecclesiarchs, choir director, and clergy about how many times to sing that hymn or when to do this or that. There was much checking of the Typikon, and one or two moments of awkward silence when waiting for someone to take their cue. This is, of course, a seminary and as such there is a heavy emphasis on following the proper order of things, even when the proper order is somewhat hard to put together and often confusing. It grabs your attention.
God likes to grab our attention in different ways, and sometimes those ways are rather mundane in the grand scheme of things. More often than not, God does actually work in mysterious ways. I remember having one of those “Aha!” moments while driving along I-84 in Connecticut. Car trips are the times I have some rather long, deep thinking going on (since my travels are usually long and boring) and I had just begun asking Him why something painful in my life had happened. As I drove around a bend in the road I saw a billboard that said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, God loves you.” Certainly a coincidence, but it was one God used to speak to me right there, and right then. Unforeseen, attention-grabbing, and wonderful.
With the sudden announcement of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary that one day in Judaea, she must have certainly be startled. The Gospel of Luke recounts her confusion, “how can this be?” (Lk 1.34). But Gabriel assures her of God’s goodness and faithfulness. While it took her by surprise, well, took all of creation by surprise, she nonetheless answers God’s call in the affirmative, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1.38). And suddenly, our salvation continued. Our Lord was incarnate and the road to the Cross begun.
In this second week of Lent, I know I’ll be keeping the angel’s words in my mind, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Lk 1.37). It rings true for figuring out how in the world the liturgical texts fit together, as evidenced by us getting through the service. It rings true for that long car ride through Connecticut those few years ago. And it rings true for this Lenten season. It’s certainly the only way I’ll make it to Pascha.