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When we come into Church, we venerate the holy icons. In doing so, we are giving honor to Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints. Icons can also be educational and we can learn so much about our faith and the Feasts of the Church by studying them.
A good example of the educational nature of icons is found in the icon of one of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This feast is celebrated on March 25th according to the New Calendar and April 7th, according to the Old.
The story of this feast can be found in the Gospel of St. Luke 1:26-39. The angel Gabriel appears to the Mother of God to tell her she has found favor with the Lord. She would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit, who would be called Christ. He would be the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Even though she is at first afraid, it is in this event where Mary shows her incredible obedience by responding: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word." Even though we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is at the Annunciation that the Incarnation actually takes place. God becomes man in the person Christ, safe within the womb of the ever blessed Virgin.
The icon is filled with bright colors, to show the joy of this feast. In the icon we see the figures of the Archangel Gabriel and Mary. Gabriel's feet are spread apart, as if to show that he is almost running to greet Mary with the news. IN his left hand, Gabriel holds a staff, which is symbolic of a messenger. He extends his right hand towards Mary as he announces the blessing to be bestowed on her.
If we look at Mary in the icon, there are many things we can learn from how she is depicted as well. We sing that she is "more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim." In the icon, she is seated in an elevated seat, representing her elevated role as the Mother of God. In her left hand she is holding thread. Mary's task while she stayed in the temple was to weave the purple and red material to be used to make the veil of the Temple. In the icon, her right hand is raised. This is to show her acceptance to what Gabriel is telling her. Mary could have said no, but she accepts out of her willingness to follow the will of God. She is a great example for all of us in this regard. On her garments, you will notice three gold stars. You will see this in many icons of the Mother of God. These three stars represent that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ.
At the top of the icon is a circle with what appears to be rays of light coming from it. This represents the Holy Spirit descending upon her at this miraculous feast.