by Sister Helena of Mary, O.Carm.
Photo Credit: Google- Henry Ossawa Tanner, “The Annunciation,” 1898
The Solemnity of the Annunciation is one of those beautiful feasts I love. There are two events we are celebrating in this one Gospel passage: the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and the Maternity of Mary. The Pro-life movement chose this feast for its Patronal feast day and the reason is I think pretty obvious. I like this feast not because of the vision of angel or supernatural light. In fact, there is nothing in the Gospel which explicitly tells us how the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. For all we know, it may not have been a visual encounter but an internal locution or apprehension. All we can be sure of is that "God had sent his angel to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the House of David, and the virgin's name was Mary." I like to imagine Mary exactly as she is portrayed in the photo above- in the midst of the ordinary. God comes to us in the ordinary events and circumstances of life, without fanfare
and fireworks. Just in the ordinary, right in the familiar and everyday. Saint Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, Founder of Opus Dei, used to say: "Do not look for lions in hallways!" It is in this cloak of the ordinary which makes us sometimes miss Him. But Mary, who ponders all things in her heart, and in silence, waits lovingly for the promise of the Messiah like all the women of Israel in her days, recognized the moment. And when she recognized the presence of something special, she was afraid. But only for a short moment because the one who is full of grace was open to all possibilities. Her doubt was not the expression of unbelief but a sign of openness to what was being spoken by the angel. What was announced to her was still an invitation, and she was free to choose.
The lesson of the Annunciation is the "Fiat" which Mary uttered. "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said." These are the words we try to live by everyday of our lives. This "Fiat" is the word we not only say once in the big moments of our life, but in the everyday, ordinary events of life. It needs to be renewed at every moment because God makes His Will known to us at every moment and we are asked to respond. According to Caryll Houselander in her book "The Reed of God", saying "yes" does not so much mean that we agree to do something for God. It is more that we agree to have God do something in us. To transform us, make us more like His Son, live His life again in us so that He can continue His mercy and works in the world. Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity once prayed "Let me be another humanity for Christ." In other words, let Christ's life, his Humanity, be again lived out in us. It is complete abandon to the merciful designs of a loving God who knows what is best for us. Tough call. But as Christians baptized in the life and death of Jesus, it's part of the package. When I am faced with a choice, I think of the Annunciation, and try to work my way from fear, to doubts, to resignation.