by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
The custom of the day usually required an interval of one year of betrothal before consummating marriage union. It was during this interval that the angel of the lord, Gabriel was sent unto a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to Mary who was espoused to Joseph. The angel saluted her and annunciated the divine conception saying:
"Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women € ¦’¥thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." then said Mary unto the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" And the angel answered and said unto her: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God". And Mary said in humility: "behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word". (Luke 1: 26-38). The moment Mary yielded to God's Command, the Holy Ghost came upon her absolving her of sin and sanctifying her (Luke 1:35). Divinity dwelt in her womb and of her blood a full man was created initiating, thus the mystery of Divine Incarnation without the seed of a man "before they came together" (Matt 1:18).
The Lord had the complete human nature of his mother, that is a real body with articulate human soul (Luke 23:46 Matt 26:38), resembling us, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
So the holy thing which shall be born of the virgin shall be called Holy and the Son of God. (Luke 1:35).
The event of Annunciation of Divine Conception marks the beginning of the two mysteries of Incarnation and Redemption. In honor of the Holy Virgin Mary Syrian Church Fathers instituted that the faithful read the angel's salutation at the end of daily offices morning and evening, and even at the end of individual prayers at their will.
The Magnificat reads:
"Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. Blessed is he, who is conceived in your womb, Holy Mary, the Mother of God. May you pray for us, we the sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen".
In reference to Annunciation, the prayer said on Tuesday reads:
"Gabriel flew with spiritual wings. He hailed Mary and conveyed the salutation forwarded to her saying, hail be to you, the Lord is with you, The savior of the universe shall shine forth from you€ ¦’¥your virginity astounded Gabriel, oh Mother of God. He folded his hands and prostrated in adoration before you and hailed you because he beheld His Lord dwelling in your womb. You were equal to the chariot carrying the bearer of mankind."
The prayer of the third hour said on Wednesday includes the following lines of poetry by Jacob of Serugh:
"With amazement and wonder I speak of the great status the daughter of mankind has attained. Was it the grace that made the son of the highest descend onto her, or was it she who desired to be the mother of her only son? It is clear that God descended to earth by Grace. Mary, who was so godly, yielded and he beheld her humbleness and innocence and dwelled in her, for it pleases the Holy to dwell in those who are humble. "Only in the humble and innocent I dwell". He saw that she was the humblest of mankind, those who are born to women. None has ever been more humble than Mary. Neither has anyone ever been more exalted than her. Glory be to the Father, who chose her for her humility and adoration be to the son who descended in humility (from high) and dwelled in her. Thanks are due to the (Holy) Spirit who is pleased to dwell in humble ones. Glory be to the one nature of the Trinity. May you, oh, Son of God, through the prayer of Mary, who bore you nine months, keep wrath away from us".
The Virgin Mary Visits her Cousin Elizabeth
The Virgin Mary heard the angel saying to her:
"Behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren."(Luke 1:36), and Mary is filled with joy for the Great News and feels so happy for her cousin- a sentiment which reveals great love. Mary leaves Nazareth and heads towards the hill country of Judah to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zecharia. Elizabeth saluted her by a prophetic hymn in which she said:
"Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy…blessed is she that believed: For there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord", to which Mary replied by a more magnificent hymn with eternal prophetic words the church repeats every morning in her prayers in which she says:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and Holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1: 42-50).
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, and some say she stayed until Elizabeth gave birth to John. Some others argue that Mary left the house of Zecharia before Elizabeth's birth of her son, John, lest the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, might be thought to have served her cousin, the mother of John, who later said that he was not worthy to bear Lord Jesus `shoes.
How beautiful the terms used by the fathers in description of the meeting of the Virgin Mary with Elizabeth are!
The prayer said on Wednesday morning reads:
"Elizabeth, the mother of John, the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus are two bastions that stand for barrenness and virginity, chosen by the king. The babe leaped in Elizabeth's womb. The new encountered the old who saluted his master saying, come in peace, for your peace shall prevail in the universe".
The prayer said on Friday evening reads:
"Mary and Elizabeth are two miraculous vessels heading towards the harbor. Elizabeth gave birth to the preacher and Mary gave birth to the savior of the world Hallelujah…their prayer invigorates us".
The prayer said on Saturday morning reads:
"Who has beheld two vines planted in the vineyard of the Lord and the whole universe enjoys the wine squeezed of their clusters? The two vines are symbols of Mary and Elizabeth and the two clusters are Jesus, the bridegroom, betrothed to the holy church and John is the best man …at the betrothal.
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