The following is excerpted from a homily of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea (Gregory Thaumaturgus) on the Annunciation:
“Most of the holy fathers and patriarchs and prophets desired to see Him with their own eyes, but did not. Some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the medium of the cloud and were favored with the vision of holy angels. But only to Mary the pure virgin did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself in brilliant light, bringing her the glad address, ‘Hail, you who are highly favored!’ And thus she received the Word, and soon, in time, through the bodies natural processes, she gave birth to the dear Pearl. Come, then, you, too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David and say, ‘Arise, O Lord, into your rest, You, and the ark of Your sanctuary.’ For the holy Virgin is truly an ark, made with gold both within and without, who has received the whole treasury of the Holy of Holies. ‘Arise, O Lord into your rest.’ Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that You may raise up the fallen race of the first man….Mary laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for irrational animals, the Word of God lay, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the true reason and understanding. In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide men who live like the beasts of the earth with spiritual food. Nor was there even room for Him in the inn. He found no place, who by His word established heaven and earth; ‘for though He was rich, for our sakes he became poor’ and chose extreme humiliation on behalf of the salvation of our nature, in His inherent goodness toward us. He who fulfilled the whole administration of unutterable mysteries of God’s work in heaven in the bosom of the Father, and in the cave lay in the arms of the mother, reposed in the manger. Angelic choirs surrounded Him, singing of glory in heaven and of peace upon earth. In heaven he was seated at the right hand of the Father; and in the manger He rested, as it were, upon the cherubim. Truly, even there was His cherubic throne; there was His royal seat. Holy of the holy, and alone glorious upon the earth, and holier than the holy, was the manger where Christ our God rested. To Him be glory, honor, and power, together with the Father undefiled and the altogether holy and quickening Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of the ages. Amen.”
I love the Eucharistic imagery highlighted here: “In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide men who live like the beasts of the earth with spiritual food.”
As has been well said before by the Fathers, Luther, and others, the whole Gospel is in these words: “Take, eat. This is my body, given for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Almighty God, who didst will that agreeably to the angel’s message Thy Son become incarnate of the Virgin Mary, mercifully grant that our sinful conception may be cleansed by His immaculate conception; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.