A Homily by St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem
When the blessed Angel was sent to the most pure Virgin, what did he say? In what words did he break the happy news of redemption? Hail, that that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Now this word hail in the original signifieth Rejoice. This this messenger of joy in his first word biddeth her rejoice. He knew well that his message was one of good tidings of great joy to men, yea, to all creatures, a message of healing to sicknesses. He knew well that his message was one of God’s light to a dark world, that it proclaimed the end of error, that it blunted the sting of death, that it broke the power of corruption, that it brought victory over hell. He knew well that it told of salvation to all the fallen children of Adam, groaning under that yoke of malediction which fell on them when they were thrust out of Eden, and banished from that happy home.
Wherefore, when he began to speak, he spake in tones of rejoicing, and opened his message with sounds of gladness. Therefore he made Joy the herald of these tidings of good things where were to be for a joy unto all believers. And, of a truth, it was fitting that God’s proclamation of joy should open with the accents of gladness. And this s the reason why the Angel nameth joy first, because he knew that the coming fruits of his message, and his converse with the Virgin, were to bring joy to the whole world. Can we find any joy or any brightness like the joy and the brightness of that salutation addressed to the Blessed Mother of Holy Joys?
Who will hold himself able to tell of all thy splendour? Thou art the exaltation of humanity ; thou art made much higher that the Angels ; thy brightness hath thrown the brightness of the Archangels into shadow ; thou lookest down upon the lofty seats of the Thrones ; thou makest the height of the Lordships to seem low ; thy rank taketh precedence before the rank of the Principalities ; compared with thee the Powers are weakness ; thou art a mighty one mightier than all the Mights ; thine earthly eyes see further than the contemplation of the Cherubim can reach ; the Seraphim have six wings, but thy flight is nobler than theirs. In a word, thou hast far excelled every other work of God ; for thou wast of a purity beyond any other creature ; and thou hast conceived the Creator of all creatures, carried him in thy womb, and brought him forth ; thou hast been chosen, out of all that he hath made, to be his Mother.