In the midst of this testing period, we approach the feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God. The Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary announcing the good news, that, She will conceive and bear the ‘Son of the Most High,’ the Saviour and Emmanuel Jesus Christ. The Mother of all creation, who bore God incarnate, and lived, by His Grace, a sinless, obedient and sacrificial life, had been in fact ‘ greatly troubled’ (Lk 1:29) but reassured and comforted, that ‘ the Lord is with you… Do not be afraid.’
Troublesome points, experiences or periods in life are inevitable. To be troubled, is not necessarily a lack of faith, a sin or a sign of our lack of trust in God. It can be an opportunity for that faith in Him to grow. A chance to implore His name further and to receive His limitless comfort and reassurance. We see this in the instance of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Christian’s example par excellence, of dedication, of unwaning love and service to Her Son and Saviour Christ and thus to all of humanity.
As Christians we are called to use any situation for our own repentance, our witness to our faith in Christ and the glorification of His Name. The Corona pandemic is testing and causes trouble to all. Our Creator, through His Holy Mother and the Archangel Gabriel, this week in particular, offers us words of comfort, of reassurance: that, He is indeed with us and will never abandon us.
Interestingly, if we read the main stages or aspects of Great Lent, highlighted in St John’s ‘Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ they are elements of life we often ignore or put to one side, but with today’s pandemic are essential to our situation in tackling the health crisis. Who would have thought that, this year, our global situation would coerce us into a rather different Lenten journey:
Detachment – from the world, our daily routine, our liturgical lives, our social circles and even family.
Obedience – to our authorities, to our Church, to the entire world’s calling to remain indoors for the sake of our neighbour.
Remembrance of death – faced with the reality of human weakness and mortality, yet the need for God’s comfort and fellowship.
Staying home and isolating ourselves; a prerequisite for Silence, Chastity. Prayer and Psalmody. The battle against pride and vainglory. Crucifixion of the passions, leading to Stillness.
According to St John Climacus, this testing, rather painful period, used for our own self isolation and contemplation, fulfilled in the greatest virtue of Love, can only lead to holiness and perfection, and culminates in the eternal joy of the Resurrection.
Let this somewhat troublesome period be thus transformed into a period of utter dedication. We may be troubled by the pain and sorrow flooding the globe, but we will pray in God’s comforting presence along with the Mother of God: ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word…’ For ‘with God nothing will be impossible.’