The Rev. Craig Bustrin, one of our assisting priests here at Trinity Cathedral, preached at our mid-day service in observance of the Feast of the Annunciation.
Craig is a very talented priest, dramatist and pastor. But knowing all that, I was still blown away by the beauty of this sermon.
I’m posting it here with his permission. I don’t normally post other people’s sermons here on this blog, but I’m making an exception in this case. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and digest its poetry.
A Homily Upon the Feast of the Annunciation
by Craig Bustrin
Did you notice the liturgical color today?
Did you notice that in the midst of Lent – with its Purple and Ash and unbleached life – there’s this unexpected spot of white on the Lenten linen?
Why does the Church sully our Lenten trajectory with this surprising color?
I mean, isn’t Rose Sunday enough of a break?
Why does this blot of White –
the color of the Great Feasts –
the color of joy and triumph –
why does this blot of White stop us dead in our Lenten liturgical tracks?
Well, one explanation is that it is the result of the Church’s strange desire to be literal in its symbolism. If you count the number of monthly 25ths until Christmas, you’ll discover that there are nine.
Which is odd, in a way.
I mean, no one believes that Jesus was actually born on the 25th of December – certainly not the shepherds in the fields (who wouldn’t be caught dead out watching their flocks in the middle of winter).
The Church tied the winter solstice to the birth of the True Light into the world –
and she did it without a qualm because the symbolism is so powerful.
So, why tie a literal nine months onto a symbolic date when it comes to the Feast of the Annunciation?
Why does the Church stamp a symbolic lead foot in order to say that Jesus spent a full nine-months in the womb?
Why not keep our Lenten fast pure and unsullied?
The answer is found in the a simple phrase of the creed: “and was made man.”
Four words which separate Christianity from every other major religion.
Four words which trip across our tongues on the way to ‘crucified under Pontius Pilate.’ Four words which make it possible for God to die.
Four words which make the ‘Resurrection of the Body’ possible.
We think that the Annunciation is a feast of the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary – and it is.
But what it really is, is a Great Dominical Feast – Feast of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A Feast of the Incarnation.
And nothing says, Incarnation, like a full, unadulterated, nine months of:
morning sickness, back aches, bladder control problems, and spectacular hormonal fluctuations,
all of which culminate in a pain so vast and all-consuming
that only the cry of a newly-birthed life can make it all worth while.
And keep it worth while – even after you’ve changed those swaddling cloths for the 500th time.
And this is how the Annunciation as a Feast of the Incarnation, binds itself both symbolically and literally to our Lenten pilgrimage.
You see, Lent is a great long meditation on our ties to the world, our frailty, our dustiness,
Lent is a season which is always reminding us that we are spiritual beings inextricably united to the physical,
that our hopes and dreams are always subject to gravity,
that we would soar – if we could…
But we can’t.
And so we must run, skip, walk, trudge, and slog,
crawl through the dust,
and be buried in dirt.
Right in the middle of Lent, on this day with it’s brilliant white raiment, we are reminded “…that God, the Son of God took on mortal form, for mortals’ sake.”
This is a very great Mystery.
This is a very amazing Joy.
This is a deep insight into the fact that whatever we have to endure, it is worth it – because Jesus endured it too.
There is a very ancient christian tradition that the Creation of the Universe by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Conception of Jesus Christ, and the Crucifixion of the Son of God all happened on the 25th of March.
All three events are birth-pangs in their fashion.
All three are birth-pangs of a risen and glorified creation.
And all three are bound by words.
At the beginning of Creation, “the Word by whom all things are made” speaks three words: “Let there be…”
There is a cosmic grandeur in these three words.
At the Crucifixion, the Word made Flesh: speaks three words: “It is finished.”
There is a cosmic grandeur in these three words, also.
But in the middle, at the Annunciation to Mary and Conception of Jesus Christ, the fate of the universe revolves around a single word to be spoken – or not (for this is part of the inscrutable way of God) – the fate of the universe revolves around a single word to be spoken by a single obscure young girl, in an obscure village, of an obscure nation, on an obscure planet, in an obscure galaxy in a universe which is loved and cherished and has been held in being, second by second, for billions of years.
The destiny of a beloved but weary cosmos is balanced upon the tip of the tongue of a twelve-year-old girl.
All creation holds its breath, the word is spoken, and the universe sighs its contented joy. “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”
About 2000 years ago, a young girl said, ‘Yes’ to God and her life changed forever.
About 2000 years ago, a young girl said, ‘Yes’ to God and our lives changed forever.
About 2000 years ago, a young girl said, ‘Yes’ to God and the trajectory of history began to swing back toward the heart of God – forever.
And every year for close to 2000 years, this spot of white creates a blinding Rorschach upon our Lenten Linens – and spreads from there to the whole of our lives.
For on this day we are reminded that our lives are like that girl’s life.
Our spirits are like that girl’s spirit.
Our hearts are like that girl’s heart.
For we have said, ‘Yes’ to God – and the trajectory of our lives has swung back toward the heart of God – forever. We know, deep in our being, that whatever befalls us, whatever chances and changes and joys and sorrows we endure, ‘all will be well.’
And so it is, that, every year, on the 25th of March we are reminded that her ‘Yes’ is all-encompassing, and so is ours.
From the beginning, to the end, and beyond,
there is a litany which is repeated over and over,
in her life,
in our lives,
and in the life of the Triune God.
This litany is as simple as it is profound;
as solemn as it is joyful.
Around and around it spins from the very beginning, and unto the ages of ages.
This litany has only three parts.
And each part has only three words.
And each part has only one possible response:
‘Let there be…’
‘It is finished…’
‘He is risen…’