Third and Fourth Sundays of Lent
Today is the third Sunday of Lent, which is called the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. As I said it would, last week, the veneration of the Cross took place here just prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. That is the correct time for it. And everyone who entered the sanctuary after that has had the opportunity to venerate the Cross in the narthex. The reason we have the Veneration of the Cross on the third Sunday of Lent is to encourage us to persevere with the fast for second half of Lent. It’s only three more weeks till Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Next Sunday will be the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year falls on March 25th, which is the feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This feast is a remembrance of the day that the Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Virgin Mary that she was chosen to become the mother of God. This event was depicted in our parish Christmas Program last December.
As we read in the Gospel according to Luke, the Virgin Mary was astonished, not so much by the appearance of the Archangel, but by what he said to her. She even asked for an explanation of how she would conceive a child, since she was a virgin. And Gabriel said, “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 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Shortly after that, the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, and the incarnate Logos and Son of God as an embryo entered her womb to gestate and grow for nine months, until He was born.
The feast of the Annunciation / conceiving of the Virgin Mary has a deep theological meaning, since this is when the incarnation took place. This is when God united with human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, albeit just an embryo. Christmas is about the nativity of Christ, which presupposes the incarnation.
So, next weekend we will celebrate this great feast starting with Great Vespers on Saturday evening at 5 PM, and then on Sunday morning, Matins and Liturgy at the regular time. After church there will be a community luncheon, with fish on the menu. Since it is a great feast, the Lenten fast is relaxed somewhat, and fish is added to the menu for this day.