>The Beginning of Our Salvation: Embrace Your Grace

>This morning at St. John Orthodox Church here in Memphis, we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation. As this beautiful hymn declares:

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!

In his homily this morning, Father John Troy commented on this hymn, saying that this feast is, in many ways, more significant (my word—I can’t remember his) even than Pascha, which is “the feast of feasts” in the Orthodox Church. He went on to say that at Pascha we celebrate victory over death, which is something he can wrap his mind around better than what happened at the Annunciation, when God entered Mary’s womb, which was truly the beginning of our salvation. It is, indeed, a great mystery.

The most mysterious woman of all time, the Holy Virgin Mary, answered God’s unthinkable request—to offer her womb for the conception of His Son—with these words, “Be it done to me according to Thy will.”

Most of us don’t always respond to God’s love the way Mary did. Take my favorite television character, Grace Hanadarko on Saving Grace. In the opening to each show, Grace says:

I wanna bust the world wide open
The way that you do when you’re filled with youth
I wanna engage with people..and lovers..family..fellow cops..and enemies
I wanna be physical and I also want to ask the big questions
I wanna taste the taste… and fix the problems.
I wanna run headlong into chaos..and bad guys..and darkness..and pranks..and fun..and laugh laugh laugh.
I wanna be the best friend.. and I wanna be the greatest aunt and the most complicated daughter
I wanna be the mystery in the room…
and I wanna be known.
Embrace your Grace.

I think I love this character because she is so alive. And so honest and real. She goes after life with everything she’s got. And she’s got plenty of wounds—she was sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child, and her sister was killed by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Powerful backstory—kudos to series writer, Nancy Miller. Watch an interview with her here, where she talks about the mystery of God and His love for us, how life is messy, and the importance of writing the truth.

Earl—the angel assigned to save Grace—tells her in one episode, “I love how you love, Grace. It’s a white hot, mighty love.”

In Monday night’s episode she tells Earl why she loves sex. (I won’t quote her here. I think you get the point without the graphic details.)

Not an exchange you’d expect between a woman and her angel. Not at all like the exchange between the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.

But one I can identify with. I can also identify with Grace’s anger towards Earl at times, although I don’t have a gun and wouldn’t know where to aim it if I did, since I’ve never actually seen my guardian angel, or any angel. (I know people who have.)

Last year on this day I was preparing to teach an iconography class. And yes, I still need to finish the two icons that Kerry and I have been working on for the nave for about two years now. We’ve scheduled days to work on them together twice during Lent this year, but we’ve each had to cancel once. I’m so into my writing projects that I’m having trouble pulling away from them and getting back to painting icons. Maybe painting icons is an important way for me to embrace my grace. But not today. Maybe soon.

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