March 25: Feast of the Annunciation
As we celebrate this great feast of the Annunciation (March 25, cf. Luke 1: 26-38) we are allowed to be privileged observers of an encounter. We can look into one of the most extraordinary and dramatic moments in all human history, carefully recorded for our benefit. It is an encounter between God and Mary. Of course God, who has countless angels to wait upon him and do his bidding, could send a messenger - the archangel Gabriel. Mary, who describes herself in humble terms, must speak for herself.
God is all powerful, great and almighty. He made all things by his Word, and sustains all things by his mighty arm. Yet just for a moment he waits upon the answer of the Virgin. Though he rules all things, he is no tyrant. He asks for the assent and the cooperation of one of his creatures. And for just a moment, all God’s plans and designs for our salvation hinge upon her response. She is simple, poor, and describes herself as of ‘low estate’. But for just a moment she has it within her provenance to either allow or forbid God’s great design. The whole plan for our salvation depends upon her decision!
We can marvel that our God respects her so much, that he becomes subject to her word. His respect was well placed, and she did not disappoint him or us. His Word became her child, and we have been saved thereby. The humble handmaid has been exalted, and we count ourselves among the generations that call her ‘blessed’.
As observers of such a sacred moment in history, we could focus on the great generosity of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Her affirmation of God’s plan of salvation came at a great personal cost, and showed the depth of the trust she had in God. ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ God regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, and she was exalted.
We might consider ourselves, the observers at this Mystery, the Annunciation. This is a story about God and Mary, but it is our story, too. Its light also reveals something of our own relationship with God. Though he is all powerful and can do all things, he waits upon us. He neither imposes his grace upon us, nor does he bless us against our wishes. He acts in a way that respects our dignity, honoring the persons we are. We are free, and it is our right to exercise that freedom either giving assent to his plans which are for our good and for our salvation, or denying him and his will for us. For a moment, the Almighty grants us the power even to reject him, and in our arrogance we can be scattered in the proud imagination of our hearts.
Mary responded with courage and faith. On this feast of the Annunciation, let us ask her to help us. May she be our Mother also, instructing us as a mother would, in the ways of courage and faith! For those who willingly accept to cultivate the servant’s heart and who place their full trust in God; discover that they also have spirits that magnify the Lord, and find joy in God their Savior: God’s plan is ‘in remembrance of his mercy’. But for just a moment, he waits upon us, while we choose and speak for ourselves. Though it is always a factor of God’s great generosity and power, in a wonderful moment of grace, his plan also gives place to our decision.
Written by a Byzantine Catholic Hieromonk.