The feast of the Annunciation is like a bright light in the dark solemnity of Great Lent. This year, it was two days before Palm Sunday, so we had the delight to celebrate two great feasts within a couple of days of each other, with the equally joyous feast of Lazarus Saturday in between.
What is also remarkable about the feast of Annunciation is that despite its brightness, we are not allowed to forget that it is still Great Lent, so it is combined with the Lenten service of the day in the wonderful harmony of the Church typicon.
Great Vespers was served at 11 AM on Thursday morning, and the Vigil, consisting of Great Compline and Matins, was served in the evening. The hours were served at 8AM, and the Divine Liturgy was served at 9:30 AM, presided by His Grace Bishop Luke.
The following day was Lazarus Saturday. The evening before General Matins was served with the presence of a number of pilgrims. On Saturday morning, many of these pilgrims joined in with many of our neighbors and seminarians in the preparation of bouquets of palm branches and pussy willows, tied together with green ribbons and flowers for the clergy.
Saturday evening, the All-Night Vigil was served with the attendance of a great number of pilgrims. Many availed themselves of the mystery of Confession, thus preparing themselves to partake of the Holy Mysteries on the feast day itself.
After the polyleos, Vladyka blessed the bouquets of palms and pussy willows. These were handed out to the faithful with lit candles as they came to be anointed by His Grace.
Sunday morning, a very joyous day with beautiful spring-like weather, Vladyka Luke presided at the Divine Liturgy. He was greeted at the entrance way by the monastery clergy holding their palm and pussy willow branches, symbolizing the greeting of the Lord into Jersualem by the children of Israel with their palms. After liturgy, the brotherhood, seminarians and pilgrims enjoyed another fish dinner, strengthening ourselves for the podvig of Holy Week, when once again, the fasting becomes stricter.
We are so blessed to have such wonderful feast days. We spiritually contemplate our suffering brethren in the Kiev Caves Lavra, who any day could be evicted from their holy monastery, as is happening to many others throughout Ukraine. May the Lord help and guide them in this very difficult situation.