(March 25)

Priest: Pray for me, brother and concelebrant (ἀδελφὲ καὶ συλλειτουργέ).
Deacon (Lk 1: 35): The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Priest: The same Spirit will concelebrate with us (συλλειτουργήσει ἡμῖν) all the days of our life.
(Dialogue after the Great Entrance, Russian Orthodox “Sluzhebnik,” Moscow 2005)

At this point in the Divine Liturgy, in response to the priest’s request for prayers, the deacon responds (according to the proper version of this dialogue, corrected in modern-day editions of the Russian Orthodox Church) with the words of the Archangel, said to the Holy Virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…” Why these words?

Because the Archangel says these words in response to Mary’s question, “How can this be, for I know no man?” (Lk 1: 34) Just as She was dumbfounded, confronted with the mystery of the Virgin Birth, so is the celebrating priest, (together with all of us), dumbfounded before the mystery of the Eucharist, at which we, and our gifts of bread and wine, are transfigured. “How can this be…?” we might ask, with the Most-Holy Virgin. And the response is, by the power of the Holy Spirit. As St. John of Damascus writes, “You also ask now how bread becomes the body of Christ and wine and water his blood. And I say to you that the Holy Spirit comes again, and accomplishes what is inconceivable and incomprehensible.” (De fide orthodoxa 4, 13)

Thus the priest’s faith is strengthened, as he approaches the central part of the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharistic (Anaphoral) Prayer, in accord with Byzantine liturgical theology, with this assurance of divine assistance, – specifically of the power of the Holy Spirit, – without Whom the Eucharist could not be accomplished. And our faith is strengthened as well, every time we see an iconostasis, and see a depiction of the Annunciation (of the Archangel and the Most-Holy Virgin) at its very center, on the Royal or Holy Doors. As those of us on the “New” Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Annunciation today, may the Holy Spirit come upon us, and the power of the Most High overshadow us. Amen!