Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord: 25 March 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10; Psalms 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
|(Annunciation - Art by Fr Mark Rupnik, SJ)|
The feast of St Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19th), and the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary (March 25th) is celebrated in close proximity. The days in between these feasts are very few. There is also a reason why the Annunciation of the Lord happens on the 25th of March and not any other day. Because according to the Gregorian calendar that we follow the timeline between the Annunciation and Christmas (December 25th) is exactly nine months! I suppose we get the point without much explanation.
1. God's divine action plan begins with Mary's "Yes"
Many of the Catholic women religious congregations celebrate this feast of the Annunciation of the Lord with utmost devotion and as a titular feast. Mary's fiat voluntas tua, "Behold! I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:35) is celebrated on this day. On this beautiful day, God not only chooses Mary as the woman in whom the Second person of the Trinity will be born but also Mary becomes an integral part of divine life having conceived by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Church venerates her as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. In other words, it's a sign that God continues to journey with humanity, with his people. A few lines from the scriptures support the role of Mary strongly: "When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, to enable us to become his adopted sons and daughters" (Gal 4:4); Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called the Son of the Most High" (Luke 2:10). The event of Incarnation takes a definite shape in the world with Mary's 'yes' to the Lord of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
2. The divine plan unfolds in Incarnation
St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in his Spiritual Exercises (a guide to retreats) devotes an original imaginative contemplative prayer on the Incarnation [Nos 101-109]. The focus of attention here is Trinity's utmost desire to save the fallen world and choosing the right person in order to fulfil the divine plan. In the conversation that takes place within the Trinity, humanity is the centre of discussion, moreover, it is to "work for the redemption of the human race". St Ignatius mentions here [No. 108] that the "three Divine Persons are busy working towards a solution by holy incarnation and other such activities.” Therefore the retreatant is invited to see “what the angel and Our Lady are doing, with the angel carrying out his office of ambassador and Our Lady humbling herself and giving thanks to the Divine Majesty." The mystic Saint invites us to participate in this unutterable mystery of God's plan being realized in a woman of Nazareth. This event of Incarnation being realized through the first step with the Annunciation of the Lord. God chooses the physical body of a young virgin girl of Galilee as the sacred place where the divine plan would be unfolded. For Mary, to live is to change, to live fully is to change often and she completely cooperates with the plan of God. In fact, the womb of Mary becomes the holy of holies where God's divine intervention takes place for the salvation of humanity.
3. God's confidence in Mary
As a sign of His loving care, God does not stay aloof from us but participates in our welfare by becoming like us a human person, bearing a human body of flesh and blood. The great medieval English Mystic Julian of Norwich (1343-1416) would say "God never began to love us. God has loved us for all eternity. We were all born into each other." St John the Evangelist would tell us in his prologue the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In God’s unique salvific plan, Blessed Virgin's place is irreplaceable and remarkable. Why did God specially choose Mary in His redemptive plan? There must be a reason. Even though God's ways are not our ways and God thinks differently than us our reasoning might deceive us. However, with faith and confidence, we can boldly say that God loved humanity and in Mary God found the right and worthy person to fulfil what the Trinity designed for her. God chooses especially for this task Mary as best suited for this job. Moreover, God chose Joachim and Anna as the perfect parents to give birth to Mary as she was born without a stain of sin as our faith tradition teaches us. In the words of second century Bishop and Church Father St Irenaeus: ‘the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by Mary’s obedience”.
4. Mary's motherly heart may warm us
It is often said unless you leave the harbour you cannot reach the shore. Mary was ready to take any assignment from God that would give glory to Him. She was a young woman ready to embark on a long, difficult and uncertain journey and her simple and very quick “yes” to the Lord was a promise spoken by the prophets of the Old Testament. Prophet Isaiah had foretold hundreds of years ago about her, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Salvation cannot be bought or demanded but is a free gift of God. In order to receive this salvation, we should like Mary have a humble, docile and obedient heart. Perhaps we might allow Mary’s motherly heart to warm us into love and respect for our own human lives and that of all others. And confident in the bond that she shares with her Son, perhaps today there is some special need, some special intention that we want to share with her so that she might share it with her Son.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me. Amen
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
24 March 2021