Mach 25th, marks the Feast of the Annunciation, where the Archangel Gabriel, with Mary, begins the journey of Christianity. This is the moment when God’s decision to break into human history is revealed to the person who is essential for its progression.
As Jesus came to earth to do the father’s will, Mary was also completely open to the will of the Father in her life. Her consent to Gabriel’s request -which comes from God – will both change history and begin the process of the Incarnation. Her eternal Yes to the Father sets her apart as the only human who allowed the will of God to permeate everything she did.
The young Virgin fully co-operated in God’s plan for humanity. From the moment she accepts to be the Theotokos (the one who carries God in her womb) she makes possible the Salvation of humankind.
Trusting the One
On the Feast of the Annunciation in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II delivered a homily in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, in which he highlighted the faith of Mary, which despite her questioning, had prepared her to say yes to God.
Like Abraham, Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One who called her. Yet even her question, “How can this come about?”, suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and uncertainties. Mary asks not whether the promise is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no surprise, therefore when she finally utters her fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me.” With these words, Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of Christ and Mother of all believers.
In her own canticle, the Magnificat, Mary acknowledges that “God who is mighty has done great things for me”. The apostle Luke depicts Mary as the spokeswoman and representative of the anawim, the poor of Israel.
It is interesting that when Gabriel greets Mary and says; “Hail, full of grace”, he is immediately giving her the title which is her due. Because he has no doubt that she will accept everything. We can surmise from this that she has already said Yes through her entire attitude preceding this heavenly visitation.
He goes further and says, “The Lord is with thee”. Although she has not yet conceived the Lord, he is already with her, for he has chosen her as his mother with the same certainty that the angel now demonstrates.
The Lord also knew that she would accept everything – even this, to have him as her Son. The whole salutation is not so much the preparation of a new, yet-to-be-created situation as the expression of one which has already long existed and which, through the words, is simply more clearly defined. The angel shows Mary her situation; he does not create it. Through the greeting, she achieves possession of self-knowledge, but she herself seems in this to be standing already in the service of heaven.
The greeting promises a coming event; she is going to conceive the Son, she does not yet have him physically within he. But her mission she possesses already; it is much older than the conception. She herself did not know that the Lord was so much in her, but he knew that he was her eternal companion.
Let the Bells ring out
With the Incarnation, we begin our journey towards Christmas and the birth of the Saviour. There is a saying “Christmas comes but once a year”, but twice a day, each day, we are reminded of this event that we await in December when the Church bells toll.
The devotion was traditionally recited in Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily: 06.00, 12.00, and 18.00. Praying the Angelus causes us to do whatever task we are engaged in; it interrupts our actions, just as the arrival of Christ will interrupt the world. The Angelus teaches us a life-ling lesson: no activity is more important than prayer – not work, not study, not conversation, not holidays. The injunction to pray also reminds us of the meaning of our work, that we have been invited to a service of love by the God who first loved us.
As the bells ring out purifying the air of our city, we are reminded that Mary’s Yes brings order to a world which has been in a state of disorder since the expulsion from Eden. It is through her that the Ultimate Grace will come.
I am rather tired now, my journey was long,
Forgive that I forgot
That he, who sat in gilded garb
Like in a ray of light,
Sends news to you, you quit one
(this room here startled me).
Look: I am the beginning one
But you are tree.
From… “Annunciation : The Words of the Angel” by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan