March 25 marks the Church’s celebration of the Annunciation (an old word for “announcement”). Here is the story from the Gospel of Luke: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David [that is, a descendant of King David]. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and wondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bar a son, and you will name him 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 ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Judah forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.“
Today’s feast commemorates how God made known to a young Jewish woman that she was to be the mother of his Son, and how Mary accepted her vocation with perfect conformity of will. It has been said, “God made us without us, and redeemed us without us, but cannot save us without us.” Mary’s assent to Gabriel’s message opened the way for God to accomplish the salvation of the world. It is for this reason that all generations are to call her “blessed.”
The Annunciation has been a major theme in Christian art, in both East and West. Innumerable sermons and poems have been composed about it. The term coined by Cyril of Alexandria for the Blessed Virgin, Theotokos (“ the God-bearer”), was affirmed by the General Council of Ephesus in 431.
Mary’s self-offering in response to God’s call has been compared to that of Abraham, the father of believers. Just as Abraham was called to be the father of the chosen people, and accepted his call, so Mary was called to be the mother of the faithful, the new Israel. She is God’s human agent in the mystery of the Incarnation. Her response to the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word,” is identical with the faith expressed in the prayer that Jesus taught, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” (See note.)
The Bible does not tell us precisely when Jesus was born, nor when the Annunciation took place. The Church, celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25, sensibly locates the Annunciation nine months earlier.
You may be thinking, “Cool! The power of God at work! The angel said that Jesus would be born, and so he was. The angel said that he would be called Son of the Most High, and so he is.” Come and join us in worshiping him.
Or you may be thinking, “Really? Can such things happen? Doesn’t science tell us that babies are not born in this miraculous way?” Come and join us. We had an interesting discussion just last week about how to reconcile the results of scientific inquiry with the information in the Bible. That discussion continues and you are welcome to join it. St. Barnabas is a place where you can ask questions and explore doubts. God is not offended by questions. Look at the story of the Annunciation again and recall Mary’s response to the angel’s miraculous visit.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, comparing Mary to the air we breathe, writes:
Wild air, world-mothering air . . .
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now,
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve,
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn— (ibid.)
On this day we pray: We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts, that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Continued Blessings for a Holy Lent – Fr. Harley+
(Note – From: Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 3997-4025). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition. )