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THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BLESSED
· VIRGIN MARY.*
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel: so by His cross - and passion we may be brought unto the glory of His resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THOUGH the title of our present collect re
fers only to the Virgin-mother of our blessed Lord; yet the collect itself relates wholly to her adorable Son. It records a fact in His his. tory ;-And founds a prayer on the recognition of that fact.
The fact recorded is the annunciation of our Lord's conception to the Virgin who was to become His mother, by the ministry of an Angel. of this circumstance an account is given by the Evangelist St. Luke, in the first chapter of his gospel.
“In the sixth month after Elizabeth (the mother of St. John the Baptist) had conceived, the same angel Gabriel, who had been the messenger of such good news to Zacharias, was sent from God to a small and inconsiderable city of Galilee
* Both this festival and that of the Purification appear to be of comparatively late institution in the Christian church. For the pieces attributed :o Chrysostom, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and Athanasius, on which some authors have founded a belief of their antiquity, are rejected by the best critics as spurious writings. See Bingham's Antiquities ef the Christian Church, book XX. chap. viii. sect. 4 & 5.
which was called Nazareth; being charged with an important commission to a Virgin, who was contracted, according to the Jewish method of espousals, to a man whose name was Joseph; a descendant of the royal house of David, which illustrious family was now reduced to so low a condition that Joseph followed the employment of a carpenter. And the Virgin's name was Mary of the same lineage. And the angel entered into the apartment in which she was alone; and standing before her, surrounded with an extraordinary lustre, he addressed himself unto her, and said, Hail, O thou distinguished favourite of Heaven! I congratulate thy happiness; for the Lord is with thee, and is about to manifest His condescending regard in a manner which shall oblige all around thee to acknowledge, that thou art blessed among women, the greatest and happiest of thy sex.
“ Now the pious and modest Virgin, when she saw the appearance of the angel, and heard his message, as she plainly perceived it to be something of a very extraordinary nature, was much disturbed at his discourse; and not imagining herself at all worthy of such applause and congratulation, she reasoned with herself for a while, what kind of salutation this could be, and froin what original it could proceed,
« And the angel immediately perceiving its to disperse the doubt she was in, said unto her again, Fear not, Mary; for I am a messenger sent from heaven to tell thee that thou hast found signal favour with God. And behold, and observe it with due regard; for I assure thee in His name, that from this very time thou shalt be with child, and at the proper season shalt be delivered of a son, and shalt call His name
JESÚS, the Divine Saviour;* for He shall come on that important errand, to save men from the tyranny of sin and the displeasure of God. He shall be incomparably great and glorious, insomuch that He shall justly be called the Son of the most High God; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, from whom thou art descended; so that, like David He shall be the sovereign of God's chosen people, and possess that extensive empire, which was promised to the seed of that holy Patriarch. (Ps. ii. 7, 8, and Ps. cxxxii. 11, 12.) And He shall inherit the kingdom with this circumstance of superior glory, that whereas David is now sleeping with his fathers, this exalted Prince shall rule over the house of Jacob (even all the true Israel of God) for ever; and though the most potent monarchies of the earth will be successively dissolved, yet of His kingdom there shall be no end, even as long as the sun and moon endure. (See Ps. Ixxii. 5, 17. Is. ix. 7. Dan. vii. 14.)
“ And Mary replied to the Angel, O thou heavenly messenger, permit me to ask, How can this possibly be from this time, as thou hast intimated to me, since I am as yet a virgin?!
“ And the Angel answering, said unto her, There is nothing in that objection, great as it may seem; for this whole affair is to be a scene of 'miracles.' The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High God shall thus overshadow thee by an amazing energy, to produce an effect hitherto, from the foundation
* That Divinity is implied in the name Jesus, and that it corresponds in meaning with Immanuel, is proved by Bishop Pearson, in his Exposition of the Apostle's Creeck Art. II.
of the earth, unknown. And therefore that holy offspring of thine shall, with regard to this miraculous conception, as well as to another and yet greater consideration, be called the Son of God. And behold, to confirm thy faith in a declaration which might seem so incredible, I further assure thee, that thy cousin Elizabeth also hath, by the miraculous power of God, conceived a son, though she be now in her old age; and this is the sixth month of pregnancy with her, who hath long been called barren, and spoken of as one who could have no hope of being a mother. And scruple not to believe what I have told thee, with regard to thyself as well as her; for well thou knowest that nothing is or ever will be impossible to God, whose almighty "power operates, with equal ease in the most miraculous as in the most common productions,
“ And strange as the message was, Mary firmly believed it, and said with the most amiable humi, lity and piety, Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, and would approve, myself faithful and obedient; may it be unto me according to thy word! I thankfully accept the honour, of which I confess I am unworthy, and humbly resign my reputation, and even my life, to the Divine care and providence, while I wait the accomplishment of thy prediction.
“ Then the Angel, having executed his commission, departed from her, and returned to his abode in the heavenly regions.”*
On the event that hath been described our church builds her collect for this day. And surely this marvellous instance of Divine mercy and condescension is worthy of being commemorated by us.
* Doddridge's Paraphrase,
« That Christ should die, when He was “a man, was a thing of natural consequence : “ but that when He was God, He should be wil
ling to be made man, and condescended to “ humble Himself beyond all imagination and
conception; this is indeed wonderful and “ astonishing in the highest degree. In admira« tion of this, St. Paul, as it were in a rapture, says,
“ Without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifest in the “ flesh."* Every circumstance relative to the incarnation of the Son of God ought to be deeply imprinted on our memories, 'to excite the liveliest gratitude in our hearts, and on every mention of it to draw from our lips new hosannas. And the circumstance this day commemorated, conducive as it is to the honour of our Lord, and to the confirmation of our faith in His Divinity, ought to be remembered in the church, so long as the church remains, that is, for ever and ever.
On the annunciation of our blessed Lord's “incarnation by the message of an Angel," which is mentioned in our collect as a subject for gratitude and thanksgiving, is founded a prayer for the infusion of Divine “grace into our hearts." Hereby we are taught the inefficacy of the mere report, though salvation be its subject, and an angelic envoy the channel of its communication, to the important purpose of awakening a saving faith in our bosoms without the superadded exertion of almighty power. Thousands hear the message, and seemingly entertain no doubt of its veracity, but give only an historical credit to the fact: they make no application of the truth, thus announced, to their own consciences.
* St. Chrys. Hom. 31. De Bapt, Christi, T. 5. p. 4674