The Annunciation (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

St_ Nikodemos 4

Note that during all forty days of the Great Fast fish is allowed by the Church only once, and that is on the Feast of Annunciation, as is ordained in the Typikon kept on the Holy Mountain. Hence it is evident that it has been a more modern hand that has written into the Typikon and into the Triodion that we may eat fish also on the feast day of the Lord’s Day of Palms. Besides, even Nicholas the Patriarch in his verses allowed the eating of fish only on the Feast of Annunciation. Therefore, when we learn this fact, let us follow the example of the saints, and not the modernist heretics, who yield obedience to the dictates of their stomachs. (pp. 371-372)


Note that just as the word homoousion [meaning of the same essence or coessential] was one to which the Fathers were accustomed even before the First Ecumenical Synod, though the latter sanctioned the use of this word and imparted it to the whole world, in a like manner had other Fathers called the Virgin Mary a Theotokos even before this Third Synod. But this Synod, having sanctioned this sweetest name of the Virgin, imparted it as a dogmatic definition to the whole world and handed it down through all later generations. Origen was the first to call the Virgin a Theotokos, in interpreting verse 33 of chapter 22 of Deuteronomy (pages 15 and 54 of the first volume of the series of the Fathers (in the Patrologia). Socrates also ( in Book 7 of his History, Chapter 32) says that Origen himself, while engaged in a comprehensive examination of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans found out how the Virgin came to be called the Theotokos. Cyril of Alexandria, in writing to Nestorius, says that even Athanasios the Great called her the Theotokos, and Ammon the Bishop of Adrianoupolis concurred, just as Alexander of Alexandria called the All-holy Virgin the Theotokos in writing to Alexander of Constantinople (the one who presided at the First Ecumenical Synod).

1st Ecumenical Synod (325)
1st Ecumenical Synod (325)

Again, Basil, in his discourse on the birth of Christ, says: “The Theotokos never ceased being a Virgin, because she would not displease the ears of Christlovers.” These testimonies, I take it, are self-sufficient. But it may be added here that Gregory the Theologian, in his first letter to Cledonius, says: “if there be anyone who does not consider Mary to be Theotokos, he is destitute of divinity.” And in his first discourse concerning the Son, in addressing the Greeks, he says; “For where among your deities have you known a Virgin Theotokos?” Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine (Chapter 43) and Socrates (Book 7, Chapter 32) say: “Wherefore indeed the most God-revering Queen (i.e. Helena) with wonderful tombstones magnificently decorated the Theotokos’ birthplace” – Bethlehem). Dionysios of Alexandria said to Paul of Samosota: “the one who became incarnate out of the holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary.” St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (or Wonder-worker) of Neocaesarea, in his discourse on the Annunciation, says these following words: “The Holy Theotokos, therefore, gave voice to the song of this prophecy by exclaiming, ‘My soul does magnify the Lord’” (Luke 1:46). Only the All-holy Virgin is called the Theotokos, according to the explanatory remark of Zonaras in commenting upon some troparia of the canons of the Octoechos of Damascene, by way of contrast with the women among the Greeks who were mythologically asserted to have given birth to their non-existent pseudo-gods.

3rd Ecumenical Synod (381)
3rd Ecumenical Synod (381)

The Virgin is called the Theotokos as having truly given birth to God, the accent being upon the last syllable, and not Theotocus, with the accent on the antepenult, which would signify “having been begotten by God spiritually,” as recusant and man-worshiping Nestorius called her.

For in this manner all human beings have been begotten spiritually through and by virtue of baptism. But the Holy Virgin is said to be a Theotokos in two ways.

One of these ways is on account of the nature and the substance of the God Logos which was given birth from of her and which assumed humanity; and the other way is on account of the humanity assumed, which became deified as a result of that union and assumption, and attained to Godhood (John Damascene, Concerning the Orthodox Faith, Book 3, Chapter 12, and elsewhere).

The Holy and Ecumenical Sixth Synod proclaimed her Virgin (in its act 11 by means of the document of the faith of Sophronios of Jerusalem) before giving birth, and in giving birth, and after giving birth: which is the same as saying Ever-virgin. Concerning St. Epiphanios (Hairesei. 78) says: “Who, having said Mary, and having been asked whom he meant, ever failed to answer by adding the Virgin?” And St. Jerome (Dialogue Second against Pelagius) said: “Christ alone opened the closed portals of the Virgin’s womb, and thereafter these remained shut (this word “opened” denotes that the Lord fecundated the womb, just as, in the opposite case, the womb is said to be shut in the sense that the womb is barren because of sterility: in accordance with that passage in Genesis saying: “God had shut fast every womb from without” (Genesis 20:18); or it may be said to denote “parted asunder,” but without injury, and not like the rest of infants). She is declared to be Ever-virgin also in the first Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod, held in the Troullos.

6th Ecumenical Synod (681)
6th Ecumenical Synod (681)


On all the Forty days of the Great Fast devoted to fasting, with the exception of Saturday and The Lord’s Day and the days of the holy Annunciation, let the Holy Liturgy of the presanctified be celebrated. (Apostolic Canon LXIX; Canons XLIX, LI of Laodicea)


The days of holy fast are days of mourning and of contrition and of repentance. But for a perfect sacrifice to be offered to God, and indeed in he commemorations of saints, is deemed by the majority of people to be matter of jubilation and joy, and of festivity. That is why they are wont to indulge in merry-making during this period. For this reason the present Canon commands that on the other days of the Fast there shall be a celebration of the liturgy of the56 which is the same as saying the second offering of the completed and sacrifice offered, whereas on Saturdays and The Lord’s Days, as more cheerful days and not devoted to fasting, likewise also on Annunciation Day, as being the commencement of our salvation and the exordium, and consequently as a feast day and festival, it allows a perfect sacrifice and Liturgy to be celebrated.


Canon XLIX of Laodicea is in agreement with the present Canon in decreeing that bread is not to be offered during the Fast, or, in other words, a perfect liturgy, but only on Saturday and the Lord’s Day. Furthermore, Canon LI of the same prohibits the celebration of commemorations and birthdays (actually death days) of martyrs on fasting days in the Great Fast, but allows it only on the Saturdays and The Lord’s Days therein. Balsamon in his Interpretation of Canon LI of this Synod of Laodicca, and, above all, Blastaris, in Chapter 5, verse 300, say that not even memorials for the sleeping are to be held on the other days in the Great Fast, the sole exception being 57 just as the typikons conformably prescribe. See also Apostolic Canon LXIX.


But in his Reply 55 the same Balsamon says that not even baptisms can be performed during the Great Fast except only on the Saturdays and Lord’s Days therein, and the day of Annunciation. But those who do these things ought to be corrected with heavy penalties, as having sinned unpardonably, except in case there should be a dire necessity of death (page 389 of Jus Graeco-Romanum).

Many teachers, indeed, are inclined to insist that it was on the Lord’s Day that the Annunciation took place. Christ was born on the Lord’s Day. It was on the Lord’s Day that wonder of the multiplication of the five loaves of bread occurred. It was on the Lord’s Day that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and it was on the Lord’s Day that John was privileged to behold the terrible Revelation as is stated in the first chapter of it.


If Annunciation falls on Great and Holy Thursday or Great and Holy Friday, we are not sinning if on that day we partake of wine and fish. (Apostolic Canon I, XIX)

St. Nikephoros I of Constantinople
St. Nikephoros I of Constantinople