Pelikan’s commentary on Acts 9 — The first “conversion”

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In the context of the larger account of Luke-Acts, the singular “conversion” story with which that entire account begins is the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-28), which the Greek Orthodox liturgy and the Greek church fathers called her “evangelization”. Although the annunciation demonstrated, according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, that “the power of the Godhead is an immense and immeasurable thing, while man is a weak atom,” and although the Virgin Mary was divinely predestined and chosen to become the Theotokos, the Mother of God, nevertheless the incarnation took place at her voluntary and unconstrained response to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). That was why, according to Dante and the Florentine tradition, the beginning of the new age of human history was to be dated from the annunciation rather than from the nativity. In the words of Irenaeus about Eve and Mary, “If the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness of the virgin Eve” (SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible).

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