Jared and I have turned this into a school project of sorts. We're taking full advantage of his creativity and amazing patience. I am raising a boy who actually enjoys standing in a craft store and listening to me babble on about, "Maybe we can do this...no, maybe we can do that." Amazing! Well, he does have his limits...mainly related to his little sister and her lack of shopping cart navigation skills. It's been fun, though, to spend our afternoons searching for supplies and dreaming of possibilities.
The first box is actually not for Holy Week. It's for March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation.
Mary had been brought to the temple as a child and dedicated to the Lord by her parents, Joachim and Anna. One day, the angel Gabriel came to her and told her she would give birth to the Messiah, even though she was a virgin. From that moment on, the world would never be the same. The hope of the Resurrection of us all began at Annunciation, and it is there that we also learn to love the Mother of God for her humility and willingness to obey.
The juxtaposition of Annunciation and Lent is always striking to me. Since Pascha moves and this feast doesn't, it comes at different times during the period of the Fast. This year, as we are knee deep in weeks of preparing and contemplating the death and Resurrection of the Son of Man, we make a dramatic switch to celebrating a girl being told she's going to have a baby. The dissonance and the harmony makes me pause. To God, there is no time, so it only makes sense that the beginning and the ending of a life overlap in this way. It also refocuses us on who Christ really is. He's not just a man. He's the Messiah, and His death is not the end of the story of our salvation. As we prepare for Christ's death, we celebrate the announcement of His birth. Let us continue to anticipate the glorious Resurrection!
I think Annunciation often gets lost in the shuffle of Lent, but I encourage you to stop and embrace this feast. It's full of symbolism and meaning.
The boxes for the feasts of the Theotokos will be blue. The feasts of Christ will be red. The Annunciation box contains:
* Theotokos and Gabriel figures.
* A white flower to represent the Theotokos' purity.
* Grapes for "the fruit of your womb".
* In some icons, the Theotokos is shown spinning thread. Since she lived and worked at the Temple, she probably helped weave the Temple veil. The Temple veil was blue, red and purple, so there are threads of those colors included.
* The Troparion of the Feast:
"Today is the beginning of our salvation. The revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!"
* A book of the story.
Our parish observed the feast this evening at our Presanctified Liturgy. The box was a success! Hilary absolutely loved it. She enjoyed reading the story and hearing me explain the symbols. She really liked it when I reminded her that the icon of the Annunciation is always on the Royal Doors in an Orthodox Church. I think it truly helped cement things for her! Plus, it definitely kept her busy. When Presanctified was over, she asked, "Why was the service so short today?" Time flew by as she played with the figures and other items. I'm pretty sure Gabriel and Mary were not just discussing holy things in her game, but thoughts of the Mother of God filled her head for 90 minutes straight. That's a lovely thing!
Can't wait to make the rest of the boxes!
Mary was the first Christian. She literally took Christ into her own body. Her willingness to be obedient, even when she didn't understand, is a compelling example for me. As we approach Holy Week, I pray that I may also be obedient to God and all that He asks of me during this time. May I put aside all my own desires, doubts, and fears and cry without hesitation:
"Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."