History of the feast

The Orthodox Feast The Annunciation to Our LadyThe Christian feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated April 7 (March 25 in old calendar), is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the church year. It was set up in the honor of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, who would become the salvation for the lost humanity. Only one Evangelist wrote about the coming of archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. It was Saint Luke and He did it in the first part of His Gospel.

The parents of Mary, Joachim and Anne, promised God to give her for the God’s service as the gratitude for the daughter they got in the old age. She was brought up in the Temple and served there. When Mary was three years old her parents took her to the Temple. Till the age of discretion (15 years) Mary lived in the Temple, where she was taught to do needlework, write and read the Holy Writ. According to the tradition the day of departure had come. The priests chose the future husbands for their disciples, who had to take care for them. Joseph was chosen for Mary, he was a joiner from Nazareth and was well-known as a very religious and honesty man. Mary left the Temple and settled in the Joseph’s house, she kept her virginity and did the housekeeping. And one day the archangel Gabriel sent by God appeared to her and said:

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luka, I:28,31-38).

The Annunciation was started to celebrate in the Eastern Church during the time of emperor Maurice (582-602). He approved this feast as the important and compulsory one. During the first centuries it considered to be the feast of Christ, because it was called: Annunciation of the Lord, Christ’s Conception, Annunciation of Mary’s Angel, the Day of Congratulations. Only in seventh century the name of the feast was set up for all Eastern Church – The Annunciation of Our Lady and it became Marian feast.

It is celebrated on April 7 (March 25) because it was influenced by the Christmas. The Annunciation comes nine months before the Christmas. The Alexandrine Easter chronicle from 624 set up the date of the celebration of the feast on March 25.

The Liturgy for this feast was written by Saint John of Damascus, Kosma Mauimskiy, Teophan, the bishop of Nicaea and monk John.

The next day after the feast of the Annunciation to Our Lady the Eastern Church celebrates the Feast of Holy Archangel Gabriel. This is the old tradition of the Eastern Church - to honor that people, who took part in the historical event the next day after the great feast. The feast of the Annunciation to Our Lady was spread from the East to West in 660-680 years. The feast was considered to be as the feast of Christ on the East and West. It had such names: Annunciation of the Lord Annunciation of Christ, Christ’s Conception, Annunciation of Holy’s Virgin Mary Angel and Annunciation to Holy Mary about the Conception.

The ecumenical council in Toledo in 656 mentioned the Annunciation on March 25, but moved it on December 18. The first reason was in the old tradition, which forbade celebrating any feast during the Lent. The second reason was in the nature of the feast. The feast of the Annunciation is closer to the birth of Jesus, but not to His death and resurrection. Only in nine century all Churches on West started to celebrate the Annunciation on March 25.

The Annunciation in the Rus-Ukraine was considered to be the second important feast of Mary after the Dormition of the Mother of God. In 1037 King Yaroslav the Wise on the Golden Gates in Kyiv built the Temple in the honor of the Annunciation to the Holy Lady; that it would always be the happiness of Annunciation for the city, the prayer of Holy Lady and archangel Gabriel. The King Yaroslav the Wise gave all guardianship for all Ukrainian people to God’s Mother in the Temple of the Annunciation.

Traditions of the feast

The Orthodox Feast The Annunciation to Our LadyThe feast of the Annunciation to the Holy Lady came in Ukraine with the Consolidation of the first Christians; however the heathenish traditions continued to coexist with Christian feast. People also called the Annunciation – “the third coming of spring” (after the feast of Christ's presentation at the Temple and Forty Martyrs of Sebaste).

People believe that during this day spring finally overcomes winter; God blesses the Earth and opens it for the sowing. According to the people believes, they can start field works only after the Annunciation. Before this feast it is a sin if you bother the ground.

Before this feast comes the storks fly back and start to make the nests. The traditional belief exists that in the day of the Annunciation the Earth opens and all reptiles crawl out.

In this day one tradition exists - to let free the birds: “That they could sing free, glory God and ask the happiness and success for the man, who let them go.” The master let go all animals, even dog and cat to go on yard that they could hear spring and take cake about themselves.

The beekeepers put all beehives on the yard this day.

People bring Holy bread to the church in the day of Annunciation. The beekeeper crumbles the bread and put it in the honey that all bees hive. And the sower mixes the holy bread with the ground and sow in four corners of the field – that the rain clouds do not pass the field and the hail does not destroy the crops.

People kept the holy bread of Annunciation behind the icon images together with the water of Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and Epiphany.

People save one believe: if a girl finds the primrose, while she goes to take the Annunciation water, she will get married this summer. The snowdrop predicts happiness, if it is found in the day of the Annunciation. If you wash your face with the water, where this snowdrop lied, you will be beautiful. The weather in the day of the Annunciation is the same as in the day of the Easter.

The Ukrainian devout people always celebrated the Annunciation in a special way. According to the church traditions it is forbidden to work in this day. As the national proverb says: “Even a swallow does not make her nest in this day”. In the day of the Annunciation you have to come to the Temple to pray and thank God for His inapprehensible mercy to us.

The divine nature of the feast

The Orthodox Feast The Annunciation to Our LadyBefore the start of the world in the council of Holy Trinity Father God asked God’s Son to save people from the sin and death. The blessing news, which happened through archangel Gabriel to the Holy Virgin, is the expression of the God’s mystery and the beginning of the human’s salvation. The nature of the mystery is how God’s Son becomes Virgin’s Son. And this event is the beginning of our salvation.

According to the words of Evangelist Luke archangel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Holy Virgin:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luka, I:35).

Apostle Paul said such words about his fact of the display of primordial God’s mystery:

Great indeed is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, Vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16).

The Holy Virgin had the doubts, when she heard archangel Gabriel: How could she give a birth to a child, if she was a virgin?

And the human mind has even more questions: How can God, who is the Spirit, unite with the material world? This all is incomprehensible for the human mind. That is why Apostle Paul called the Annunciation – a great mystery of godliness.

The human mind can accent only that things which happen in the limits of laws of nature. These laws people open step by step. Some things which seemed to be unreal in the 19 century became a reality today: radio, TV, atomic energy, airplanes, rockets, visits of space. The human can’t understand that things, which happen out of limits of laws of nature. That is why Apostle Paul called it “a great mystery of godliness”. And even if this mystery is incomprehensible, it still exists and nobody can throw it out.

The mystery of God can be apprehended and recognized only with a faith. People can believe, or not. But because of people’s faith this mystery does not disappear or stop to exist.

The Lord created the laws of nature and all nature. He has a power to overcome these laws. God prepared the humanity to take this mystery of the Embodiment beforehand for the salvation of people from sins and death.

The Holy Writ tells us about Moses, who saw the bush that was burning, but did not burn; about Aaron’s rod, which blossomed out. These are proves that God can do impossible things. God can turn soft stick into the flower and He also can make a Virgin to give a birth to a Son and to turn sinner into the Saint man.

The Son of God took the body and blood form from the Holy Virgin Mary not only to become a human, but to become a true man, save people from their sins and death. The celebration of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin is today – this is the celebration of the beginning of human salvation.

The Holy Orthodox Church profoundly honors the Holy Lady and calls her more honest than cherubs and more blessed than seraphs. The truth honoring of the Holy Lady comes from the understanding and realizing her part in the salvation of all humanity. She gave her body and blood in the name of all humanity to the First-born God’s Son. Without her participation the salvation would be impossible.

God saves us with His Grace, His mercy, but with our participation. That is why the words of Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” have sacramental meaning. Because without them, without the consent of the Holy Virgin Mary there would be no salvation. The Annunciation is the event of bringing of the news by archangel Gabriel from God to the Holy Lady and it is the truth act of primordial God’s mystery and the beginning of our salvation.