The Annunciation

Today we celebrate the Annunciation (a subject on which I briefly commented here in explaining my choice of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation at the top of the page).  An angel appears to a young girl and says, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end….The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

What an amazing message!  Through the love of God, the Word will become flesh.  God will become human.  But not only will God become human: God decides God can not do this without human assistance. Pope Benedict XVI, while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote in a book called Mary, The Church at the Source, “Without Mary, God’s entrance into history would not achieve its intended purpose. That is, the very thing that matters most in the Creed would be left unrealized – God’s being a God with us, and not only a God in and for himself….Mary is an indispensable, central component of our faith in the living, acting God….The Incarnation required consenting acceptance.  Only in this way do Logos and flesh really become one.   And so the Angel comes to Mary.”

And what is Mary’s reaction upon hearing this news?  Mary cannot help but be frightened and concerned about herself, her future and the child she is to bear.  This is, after all, something she could be stoned to death for.  And even if she is not stoned, there is no guarantee Joseph will stand by her side to help her raise this son.  Yet, despite her fear and concern, her worry about the future, she says yes.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 

Now, I’m a lawyer by training and I can at times to be legalistic in my thinking.  One way that manifests is that I don’t like to agree to anything without understanding fully the ramifications.  I don’t sign anything without reading it.  I want all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, and I prefer to fully understand something before I commit myself to it.  I want to know what I’m getting myself into.

But what became clear to me during one of my periods of prayer with the Annunciation, is that with God we don’t always get all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.  God invites us to follow Him on a path that is sometimes misty, in ways that raise questions to which we cannot always see the answers.  (Mary did not know her yes would lead her to the foot of the cross.)  And I realized that faith does not mean not having questions.  Rather, faith means acting to do God’s will in the face of the questions, in spite of the doubts, worries and concerns.  It means being willing to accept God’s invitation, as did Mary, even when all of the implications are not clear.  It means being willing at the most fundamental level to trust in God and His love.  To say, Into your hands Lord, I commend my life.  I don’t understand all you are asking of me, but yes, I am yours to do with as you will.

It is one thing to say “I believe in God,” and another to live it.  Mary knew that what we do, how we live, and the choices we make are never without consequence.  By choosing to say to God, “Let my life be your will, and not mine,” she manifested her willingness to live through those consequences, without knowing what they would be.

[Note: Our celebration of the Annunciation is later than usual this year, because March 25 fell during the Octave of Easter.]