MARCH 25: SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her (Lk 1:26–38).”
Dear friends, today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, celebrated yearly on March 25, but since it fell during Good Friday, the liturgical calendar transferred it to April 4.
In the Gospel of today’s Mass, we contemplate our Lady who was “enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendour of an entirely unique holiness; . . . the virgin of Nazareth is nailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Lk 1:28), and to the heavenly messenger she replies, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word’ (Lk 1:38). Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself whole-heartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience” (Vatican, II, Lumen gentium, 56).
“The Annunciation to Mary and Incarnation of the Word constitute the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind: God becomes Man, and will remain so forever, such is the extent of his goodness and mercy and love for all of us. And yet on the day when the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed frail human nature in the pure womb of the Blessed Virgin, it all happened quietly, without fanfares of any kind (Navarre Bible Commentary).”
The Angel’s unusual salutation, “Hail, full of grace”, denotes an important truth about Mary’s singular privilege before God, her special dignity and honor. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church “taught that this singular, solemn and unheard-of greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” which meant that she “was never subject to the curse”, that is, was preserved from all sin. These words of the archangel in this text constitute one of the sources which reveal the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, Paul VI, Creed of the People of God). “The Lord is with you!”: these words are not simply a greeting (“the Lord be with you”) but an affirmation (“the Lord is with you”), and they are closely connected with the Incarnation. St Augustine comments by putting these words on the archangel’s lips: “He is more with you than he is with me: he is in your heart, he takes shape within you, he fills your soul, he is in your womb” (Sermo de Nativitate Domini, 4).
With Mary’s single “YES” to God’s Will, God became Man, He came into the world and physically united Himself with mankind and our moment of our salvation has commenced. But do we realize that all these depended on the freedom, generosity and obedience of one human being? With this we can unmistakably comprehend why Our Lady, Blessed Virgin Mary, occupies a sublime place in the History of Salvation and is venerated in the Catholic Church over and above any other saint.
Pope Benedict wrote: “In one of his Advent homilies, Bernard of Clairvaux offers a stirring presentation of the drama of this moment. After the error of our first parents, the whole world was shrouded in darkness, under the domain of death. Now GOD SEEKS TO ENTER THE WORLD ANEW. HE KNOCKS AT MARY’S DOOR. HE NEEDS HUMAN FREEDOM. THE ONLY WAY HE CAN REDEEM MAN, WHO WAS CREATED FREE, IS BY MEANS OF A FREE “YES” TO HIS WILL. IN CREATING FREEDOM, HE MADE HIMSELF IN A CERTAIN SENSE DEPENDENT UPON MAN. HIS POWER IS TIED THE UNENFORCEABLE “YES” OF A HUMAN BEING. So Bernard portrays heaven and earth as it were holding its breath at this moment of the question addressed to Mary. Will she say yes? She hesitates…will her humility hold her back? Just this once – Bernard tells her – do not be humble but daring! Give us your “yes”!…IT IS THE MOMENT OF FREE, HUMBLE YET MAGNANIMOUS OBEDIENCE IN WHICH THE LOFTIEST CHOICE OF HUMAN FREEDOM IS MADE (Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth. Infancy Narratives, London: Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. p. 36).”
Dear friends, let us be docile and magnanimous in carrying out God’s plans for us by saying YES to Him in many little things during the day, knowing that this free, humble, loving and obedient consent to God is the loftiest choice our freedom can do and that in this positive response to God’s will done out of love, we are co-redeeming with Him like Our Mother Mary did. With the help of Our Lady, let us tell our Lord: “HERE I AM LORD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL (Ps 40: 8a;9a).” Let us not forget: “Many great things depend — don’t forget it — on whether you and I live our lives as God wants (St. Josemaría, The Way, n. 755).”
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ORIGINAL PHOTO SOURCE: Orazio Gentileschi, Annunciation, in http://www.wga.hu