“And the angel said to 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…For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:35-38)
Today Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate the Annunciation when the Holy Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was “highly favored; the Lord was with her; and she was blessed among women!” You can read the whole story in Luke 1. Her response to the angel literally changed the course of human history. In fact, her humble obedience to God caused the early Christians to call her the “Second Eve” or the “New Eve.”
The reason for this title is grasped better when we consider the story of the first Eve found in Genesis 3:1-6. Instead of being obedient to God, Eve basically said: “Not Your will, but my will be done.” And with that attitude, she disobeyed God and, along with Adam, ate fruit from the tree that had been forbidden. Thus was ushered in our ability to sin (which we have all done) and mankind’s separation from God. Out of all women who had ever lived, Mary was chosen to be the vessel that would bring salvation to mankind. Keep in mind, this was a very real choice; she could have said no. Instead, Mary’s response was the opposite of Eve’s: “Not my will, but Your will be done!” Mary’s obedience led to the Birth of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are all so very grateful for her humble obedience.
Note that she gave birth to Jesus, Who is fully God and fully man. This is something that was proclaimed by the early Christians and is found in every early Creed of Christianity. Throughout history there have been many people who have rejected Jesus being God and proclaimed Him as a man or some type of super-man. In the year 428 a bishop named Nestorius proclaimed that Mary was “Christotokos,” the bearer of Christ, and not “Theotokos,” the bearer of God. The leadership of the entire Christian world came together in 431 in Ephesus for a Council to discuss what Christianity had always believed about who Jesus is. The Truth, which had been handed down from generation to generation from the time of Jesus through His Apostles, was clear. The Council proclaimed that Mary bore God come in the flesh and was therefore the Theotokos (Bearer of God). The beliefs of Nestorius were condemned.
So today, we give honor to that vessel who bore God in her body bringing the Savior to the world. We too carry our Lord within us and it is our joy to bring Him and His message of salvation to the world. The Holy Scriptures tell us that all generations will call Mary blessed: “And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49)
Do you call her blessed? Do you honor her as the Theotokos…the bearer of God to this world? No other woman has ever deserved it more. She is the blessed Theotokos.
May we in our daily choices also have that same response as Mary: “Not my will, Lord, but Your will be done!”