SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION
Birthing Jesus into the World in Imitation of Mary
(Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10d; Ps 40; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-28)
Sr. Connie Piska UJ of Edmonton gave me a gift she made for my priestly ordination in 1974 that still hangs on a wall in the bathroom so that I see it every day. It is a silhouette of Mary kneeling before a dove with rays reaching down to her and on the side, a great big “Yes” – her “fiat” at the annunciation.
Fr. Cantalemessa, the former papal preacher, states in his writings that imitation of Mary is just as important as devotion to her. So, on this feast of the Annunciation, let us pray for the faith and love to imitate Mary, make our own “yes” to God’s will every day, and each in our own way, help birth Jesus into our world.
The great mystery of the Incarnation – the Word, Jesus, who was with God, who took on our human nature and became one of us – was made possible through Mary’s faithful openness to God’s will. She becomes the virginal Mother of God. This we see as the historical beginning of our redemption.
Mary is first of all a model of faith by her fiat, her total trust in God and willingness to do God’s will. She was the first to believe in Jesus at Cana, the perfect disciple who lived the “Our Father” before Jesus taught it.
The late psychiatrist Gerald May wrote a book entitled Will and Spirit. In it he talks about the great gift of free will God gave us, and how totally free God leaves us regarding how we use that gift that makes us human. We can be willful, stubborn, do our own will and get ourselves into all kinds of trouble, or we can be willing, cooperate with God’s grace, and experience serenity in our lives. Mary was an example of total obedience to God’s will in her life.
Mary is also a model of forgiveness. At the foot of the cross, she was doing what Jesus was doing on the cross – forgiving those who were crucifying him. She wasn’t screaming and crying out for them to stop – she was the strong biblical woman taking in all that violence, holding and pondering it, and believing that somehow God would turn all that dark energy into something positive, which God did through the resurrection.
Mary was also a model of compassion, caring for Elizabeth and the couple at Cana, sensitive to the needs of others and thinking of them first. In fact, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth could be termed the first Eucharistic procession, as she was carrying Jesus in her womb!
Mary is also a model of contemplative prayer, pondering God’s Word. She demonstrates the importance of persevering in prayer, especially in moments of distraction and difficulty when one struggles with life. Her receptivity in prayer led to the Annunciation we celebrate today, the announcement of the angel that she would be the Mother of God.
Her searching for Jesus in the Temple teaches us to continually search for him in the Scriptures. From then on, the silence concerning Mary in the Scriptures suggests she lived out her life in simplicity, contemplation and loving action. In the upper room with the apostles and disciples, she teaches us to keep vigil and to wait for the working of the Spirit in our lives. And after Pentecost, her prayer centres on praise, as must ours.
Wayne Teasdale in his book A Monk in the World teaches that a priest, through the words of consecration and the power of the Holy Spirit, makes Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity. So, in a very real sense, Mary was the first priest because she made Jesus present here in this world body, blood, soul and divinity, through her own body. Her acceptance of the invitation to bear the Son of God and his birth through her could be seen as a first Eucharistic consecration.
Our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, had a special devotion to Mary and named his new congregation after her – the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The readings chosen for this solemnity resonate with depth and meaning. First is the prophecy of Isaiah about a young woman bearing a son who would be named Emmanuel, completely fulfilled in the Incarnation. Hebrews then adamantly states no animal sacrifice, so prevalent within Israel and most other cultures at that time, can take sin away – only the body and blood of Jesus, the true Lamb of God, would do that. And Luke in his gospel connects us with the divine and God’s particular love for us, demonstrated by the sending of the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young virgin name Mary.
The prayer over the offerings adds a mystical touch – Mary is aware that her “beginnings lie in the Incarnation of God’s Only Begotten Son,” and that she is rejoicing with us in this Solemnity celebrating that beginning. All very amazing!
The Eucharist is in itself our “Yes” to God; we believe, we receive, and we are transformed into the Body of Christ, to bring Christ to an unbelieving world.
So, let us pray for the faith and love to imitate Mary and, each in our own way, help birth Jesus into our world.