Today is the great solemnity of the Annunciation when God invited, Mary said Yes and the Messiah entered human history. The gospel is Luke 1:26-38.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’. ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
So often, when a story is familiar to us, it loses some of its impact. Reading a book for the second time or watching the film of a book we have read somehow doesn’t evoke the feelings we experienced when the story was new and full of surprises. This may be true of today’s Gospel, the awesome and amazing story of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates ‘the fullness of time’ (Gal. 4:4), the time of the fulfilment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom ‘the whole fullness of deity’ would dwell ‘bodily’ (Col. 2:9)” (CCC [Catechism of Catholic Church] #484).
The incredible event takes place in such ordinary circumstances. The angel Gabriel goes to a town of no great significance, Nazareth, having a population of about 150 people at that time. We have all sorts of images of what Gabriel may have looked like from art, but suffice it to say it was not his appearance we are told that troubled Mary, but his words. Humanly speaking Mary would not have seemed anyone special, but Gabriel’s greeting indicated that she had been uniquely blessed by God and chosen by him to be the mother of his Son.
Mary is troubled because she is humble. When she calls herself the ‘handmaid’ of the Lord, she uses the word for the lowest form of servant. “Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women. Mary stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who constantly hope for and receive salvation from him” (CCC #489).
‘How shall this be…?’ asks Mary (v. 34). By the power of the Holy Spirit. All things are possible to the one who believes God’s word, and this Mary did supremely. By virtue of our own baptism and faith in Jesus, the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary also dwells in our hearts and can do equally great things for us. (Bible Alive)
Pour forth we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by his passion and cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord, Amen. (‘The Angelus’ which commemorates the Annunciation.)