Feast of the Annunciation
Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, “Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you.
“Today is disclosed the mystery before all ages and the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, that by His adoption of the lowest He may grant me the Highest. Adam of old failed to become a god as he desired; thus God became man that Adam might become a god. Therefore, let creation rejoice and let nature exchange greetings for the archangel did stand reverently before the Virgin and offered her joy instead of sorrow. Wherefore, O our God, who by Your compassion became man, glory to You.”
We celebrate with joy the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, when the Archangel Gabriel came to the Most Blessed Virgin and promised that she would bear a son. This feast commemorates the most marvelous moment in history, in which the second divine Person assumed human nature in the womb of His Mother. Through His mother He is a member of the human race. The Redeemer did not arrive in the usual way: the power of the Holy Spirit entered the chaste womb of the Virgin, forming the humanity of Christ. The consent of Mary was essential to the redemption. This does not mean that God in His plans was bound by the will of a woman, and that man would not have been redeemed, if Mary had not consented. It only means that Mary’s consent was foreseen from all eternity, and therefore was regarded as essential into the design of God.
This is such a momentous occasion that services of the feast of the Annunciation are taken even if it should fall on Palm Sunday, Great Friday, or on the feast of the Resurrection. Because Mary is the meeting place of heaven and earth, the Annunciation icon is always placed on the royal doors.
In the spirit of this feast, we are called to let go when the time is ripe for us to receive something better, to submit obediently to the will of God. If we are forever holding on, we will never be able to receive fresh gifts from the hand of God.
The little Virgin of Nazareth teaches us how to live our Christian life. When the Angel of the Lord appeared, bearing the message and calling her to a special mission, she said “YES.” We must say “Yes” as well and believe that “nothing is impossible with God.” When Mary spoke those few words, human history was forever changed. They came from a deep spiritual reservoir within the heart of a young Jewish girl who was in love with the God of her Fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A woman of deep, living faith. A woman of prayer.
Mary´s words proceeded from her humble, surrendered heart. This young woman was not full of herself, not self-protective, not cynical; she was emptied, in order to be filled. She was therefore able to completely surrender herself in love, to Love, and be filled with His Life for others. Her initial assent to the Angel Gabriel´s announcement also reveals the meaning of another Biblical word, “holy”. Holiness is not about looking pious. It is about being selfless. Mary was holy, and she shows us the way to become holy, too.
In the original languages, the words in Holy Scripture which are translated into the English word “holy” mean to be set apart or consecrated, entirely dedicated to God´s service, given over to God and His worship. If we want to be holy, we need to explore the meaning of these words and make them our own. We are also called to be set apart for the living God. We are to make a place for Him within ourselves and within the world.
We are to invited to bear His message through living in a way which radiates His love. It is only by being consecrated to the Lord that our own personal histories can be truly transformed. This happens through conversion, or “metanoia“, which, in Greek, means “to change.” Our hope for change, for becoming holy, is to open our lives to the One who is the source of all goodness and holiness, Jesus Christ. We are called to respond to His invitation, to say “Yes” to a relationship with Him. Not just one, but every day, every waking moment. To live a lifestyle of “Yes”.
This is what Mary´s Fiat is all about. In saying Yes to God, as Mary did, we are able to discover the path to conversion, to holiness, to authentic spirituality. Our call to embrace the Fiat and to make it our own is not a formula for easy spiritual growth, nor is it the first in a series of steps that lead to solving the problems of life. The spiritual life is a path, a Way, and it involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord.
He has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary´s Fiat, her Magnificat, and her way of life. When we embrace Mary´s Prayer and make it our own, we allow the Love that Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us, too. Each of us can say “Yes” to God, right now, wherever we are. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a Fiat of surrendered love.
When we do so, our positive response marks the beginning of a participation in the very life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of the Most High and enter into the life of the living God. In Him we find our deepest identity, our real selves, through our participation in the One who made us, who redeems us, and who transforms us by His continual grace.
Conversion begins when we say Fiat with our words and our deeds. It introduces to us a new and dynamic way of living with God, and in God. As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again, made new and completed.
This holy exchange – our life for His- is the essence of the Christian life. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, true Christian spirituality is about surrendered love.
Mary teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary´s way is to become an ark within, where the same God who became incarnate within her takes up His residence in us. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say “Yes” to Him. Mary invites us to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God´s Love, for the sake of world which He still loves.
It is an invitation to live our lives redemptively. The ongoing re-creative and redemptive work of God´s love in Jesus Christ continues through us. We are members of His Body We enter into Christ´s continuing Incarnation and participate in his ongoing redemptive mission as we respond in the same way Mary did to His invitation: “Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”
Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel´s visit. She recognized who was speaking. She listened, received and responded. In so doing, she shows us the way to respond to the Lord’s call in our own lives.
“In the life of every Christian there will be divine annunciations, moments when God lets us know His will and His intention concerning us. But all these annunciations must unite to become the one essential Annunciation: the Annunciation that Jesus can be born in us, can be born through us – not in the same way that He was conceived and brought into the world by the Virgin Mary, for that is a unique miracle that cannot be equaled, but in the sense that the Saviour takes spiritual and, at the same time, very real possession of our being. And then let us remember that every authentic Annunciation is immediately followed by a Visitation: the divine favour that has been granted to us must straightaway release an impulse in us to let it flow out to our brothers, which is expressed through some loving act.”
God initiates a relationship and we respond in surrender to Him. This dynamic, this heavenly road, leads to a dialogue, a conversation, a way of life. By saying Yes, through our own Fiat, we are Consecrated and enlisted in the ongoing mission of the Lord. Mary shows us that.
Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, full of grace,
O Theotokos, the Lord is with you!
Blessed are you among women,
And blessed is the fruit of your womb.
For you gave birth
To the Savior of our souls.
Excerpts reprinted with permission of Catholic Online http://www.catholic.org/news/national/story.php?id=54667