On March 25 the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the mystery wherein God takes on flesh and comes to dwell in the womb of Mary. This mystery has always had a special place in Catholic devotion and piety, not only because of Jesus’ incarnation, the truth that God put on flesh and became man in Jesus Christ, but also to honor Mary’s role in this whole drama we call Salvation History. That despite her confusion and the plans she may have had for her life, Mary gave her fiat, her total and complete yes, to her role in God’s plan of salvation.
In my own life, I have found that this mystery of the Annunciation holds within it all that we need to respond to God’s invitation to become Saints. God is always calling people. In unique and varied ways of course, but fundamentally, the call is the same: God is calling all of us to a life lived in radical union with Him. That is essentially who a Saint is, someone who lives a transformed life in union with God. We were created for this union and until we direct our hearts and lives to Him, the restlessness that marks the human experience will continue.
Mary made space in her life to hear and respond to this invitation of God. Her yes was so total, her heart so open, her life so disposed, and her union so fruitful that it literally gave birth to God. What Mary models for us in this Annunciation of the Lord, is what all of us are called to in our own lives. You and I both are called to make space in our lives for God and to dispose ourselves to encounter Him in prayer. To surrender our own plans, hopes and desires to Him trusting that in his own time he will reveal His plan for our lives. In short, to be radically abandoned to the will of God.
Every year I take the opportunity of the Solemnity of the Annunciation to reflect once again on one of my favorite poems, “I sing of a Maiden” written by Redemptorist priest Msgr. John Duffy. This poem describes the world the morning after the Annunciation and I think beautifully captures this strange event, when the Creator of the universe waited for Mary to give her consent. Here’s a small excerpt:
A new awareness in her body when she stirred,
A sense of Light within her virgin gloom:
She was the Mother of the wandering Word,
Little and terrifying in her laboring womb.
And nothing would again be casual and small,
But everything with light invested, overspilled
With terror and divinity, the dawn, the first bird's call,
The silhouetted pitcher waiting to be filled.
“I Sing of a Maiden” by Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R.
Dear Lord, like Mary give us the grace to see and respond to your presence in our lives. Help us to be aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst and to allow your presence to dwell in us, so as to give birth to you in the world. Encounter us. Make us different. Overspill in us. May we never be the same again. Amen.