Monday, April 8, 2013

Feast of the Annunciation


In most years we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on March 25. But this year that day fell in Holy Week, and because it is such an important mystery of our Faith, the celebration was transferred to this day.

BEHOLD THE HANDMAID OF THE LORD
LET IT BE DONE UNTO ME ACCORDING TO THY WORD

Behold - In fashioning Mary a completely human but truly faithful creature, God the Father intended that she be the model for each of us down through the centuries. Jesus gave her to us anew on Calvary, and the Holy Spirit, through the Second Vatican Council, reminded us of this truth when it proclaimed her as Mother of the Church. It is up to us to behold her, look at her intently, study her, and think deeply on all we know about her. I want to learn from her the values, motives and principles which inspired her life and conduct, and discern how these may be incorporated into the common everyday actions and choices of my life. I can listen to the Lord saying to me, “I, your God, set Mary before you. Look at her. Go around the other side and look again from a different angle. Gaze on her at sunrise, at noon, at sunset. See how, like a jewel, her various qualities become evident in the different lights. Then change your hat and notice how she takes on other aspects when you look through different colored glasses. You can see her from the viewpoint of one in temptation, in pain, in sin, as one who is learning, or in confusion, or struggling, or receiving care, comfort and help from others. Another day you look at her from the stance of the care giver, the helper, the one forgiving, explaining, supporting. You will never exhaust the richness of her being.

The Handmaid - My idea of a handmaid is one who is hovering nearby, ready and waiting to be called into the service of a Master whom she loves deeply. She is always available. Someone who was telling us about Medjugorje said that when one of the children asked Our Blessed Mother why she had chosen to appear to them, she answered that they were available. This seems to me to be a commentary on Mary's own life. What happened at the Annunciation was not the beginning, but the high point of what had been going on all along. God asked something of her as He had done many times before, and she was listening attentively, as she had always done, to know what His slightest wish might be. He had asked many things of her before this, most of them very little things, but she had been just as eager and happy to be of service in unimportant ways as she was when it came to this major issue of the Incarnation. And each time she had complied with His will, she became that much more prepared to be filled with God.

Of the Lord  - Mary belonged totally to her Lord and God, by right as His creature, and by the loving donation of her whole self to Him. But He wasn't an unknown, vague Other in her life. She KNEW Him. She had searched the Scriptures diligently to find out: Who is He? What is He like? How does He treat His people? What pleases Him? How is He dishonored or angered? What reflection of Himself has He given us in nature? How can His image be found in mankind? The Scriptures in which Mary found the answers to these questions are the very same which I have for reference. I must go to her frequently, even daily, and ask her to teach me to know my Lord and God as she did. Mary will open to me the Scriptures just as Jesus did to His disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Until this moment of the Annunciation Mary knew Him by Faith just as we do. Then "The Word was made Flesh" - her own flesh - her Child -, and she became the Mother of God - that same Lord and God she had come to know through the Scriptures. Then at long last she could see Him, but she saw only the Man. She still needed the same faith as I need to see the Godhead.
Mary's attention to what God wanted of her must have been focused not only on her Lord in His immediate person, but she also sought to serve Him in those around her, because she was able to see His image in them. She first lived what her Son would later preach, "Whatever you do to one of these, the least of my brethren, (the most undeserving, the least likable, the most irritating, the least likely to benefit) this you do to Me". When Salome or Joanna asked her for help with some common task, I can't imagine her making use of any of my excuses for avoiding something. True she had the duties of her state in life, she had her responsibilities to her parents & family, her civic duties and religious obligations. But when something needed to be done, I picture her being willing to give what she had been saving, to go the extra mile. We know that she noticed the supply of wine giving out at Cana and hastened to do something about it before her friends would have to suffer embarrassment.  And she knew not only what God wanted her to DO, but also what He wanted her to BE for Him and for His mystical Body - pure, loving, trusting, cheerful, supportive, encouraging, challenging, a shoulder to cry on.

Let it be done unto me – Let it be = allow it. God’s word is creative – it causes, brings about what it signifies – IF I don’t put obstacles in its way. When He speaks in my life directly or through others, I can trust Him to supply the strength, wisdom, power and love to accomplish what He wants done in myself or in others. He will overcome the obstacles, I have only to surrender and be the obedient instrument in His hand. The Annunciation was not the first time this phrase was used. I believe that it was the constant refrain running through the trials and joys in the life of Our Blessed Mother both before and after this great event. It came to her lips when she felt happiness in her marriage to Joseph or sorrow at the death of her parents. If it is true that she was raised in the Temple, then there was the hour of separation from family and friends, and the having to live with the less-than-perfect priests and Levites, as well as the delights of the daily prayer and sacrifices of praise. Later there would be agony over Joseph's doubt, the orders to travel to Bethlehem at that critical time, and the terrors of the flight into Egypt, all of this just a preliminary to suffering with her Son. But there was also the ecstasy of the moment when she held in her arms her own Baby whose only Father was God, and that moment after the Resurrection when she saw Him standing before her and held Him again in a tender embrace.
"Let it be done". The IT which Mary uttered meant "whatever". She was open, ready, available. Yes, there was the tremendous honor, but being very human, her nature must have recoiled from the pain before her. I believe that she may not have known the details, but had studied the Scripture enough to know that God was becoming Man in order to suffer. She was very familiar with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and it just HAD to be scary. But she trusted her Lord to give her grace and strength.

According to Thy word - If Mary was anything like me she had plans for her life. She planned her wedding, she planned the home she would make for her husband and Son. She planned her year, her day and her hour. The difference is that she was willing to let go of those plans when it became evident that they were not "according to His word". The need for a change in plans was made clear to her through the Angel Gabriel, or through Joseph, or the edict of Caesar, or a friend at the village well. I see in her a peace which leaves no room for fuming and fussing when plans are changed or her arrangements are set aside. And I ask that she help me to acquire that same peace so that at all times I may be available to whatever unexpected item His word may insert into my life.


May the Word incarnate who gave Himself to us through Mary, continue to fill us more and more with His presence and peace through her prayers and example.

No comments:

Post a Comment