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March 25, 2009

Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation!

…also known as the Day of the Unborn Child…

We get to sing the Gloria today!! Just in case you haven’t missed it, the Gloria is a prayer we fast from during Advent & Lent, bringing it back only for Feasts and Solemnities (of which there are precious few). Today is just such a celebration! We get to celebrate the Incarnation, the day when Heaven was first wedded to earth in the conception of Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb, nine months before His birth at Christmas. And our culture hasn’t even secularized or trivialized it, the way it has Christmas. There’s something to be said for obscurity :).

God our Father,
Your Word became Man and was born of the Virgin Mary.
May we become more like Jesus Christ,
Whom we acknowledge as our Redeemer, God and Man.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Isaiah 7:10-14 (a virgin shall bear a son and name him Emmanuel)
Psalm 40:7-11 “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will”
Hebrews 10:4-10 (Jesus came to do God’s will)
+Luke 1:26-38 (the Annunciation)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Today we celebrate the fact that Almighty God, whom the universe cannot contain (I Kings 8:27), took on flesh as a single cell in Mary’s virginal womb. What staggering humility! Deep calls unto deep (Psalm 42:7). Humility calls unto humility, listening intently for a human echo of divine love.

God called first to Adam and Eve, seeking their communion within His perfect divine will so that He could give Himself to them. They refused. In our first reading we hear that God tried again with King Ahaz, offering to give Himself away. But Ahaz refused. He didn’t trust God, he didn’t want God, and he was sure he didn’t need God. He had Assyria, thank you. Now if God would just go away and leave him alone… But God, wearied as He was by man’s refusal, gave him a sign anyway. A Virgin will be with Child and shall bear a Son and shall name Him “Emmanuel”, “God is with us”. And the Virgin’s Name was Mary.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” How the archangel Gabriel must have thrilled at the sight of this pure daughter of Eve, this maiden who had never put any obstacle in the way of God’s love shining through her. Through the free gift of God, she shared in the inner life, the love, the vibrance of the Holy Trinity. Her soul was radiant, open, receptive. She was as free as Eve had been. She would be offered the same proposal. Divine humility called to human humility. I want to give Myself to you, and to the whole world through you. Will you receive Me? All Heaven hushed to hear her courageous reply. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Her “yes” to God’s gift of Himself, to His holy will, was her gift of herself to Him. It was a free gift, total, faithful and fruitful. She opened herself, not only to the joys, responsibilities and uncertainties of motherhood, but also to the agony that only a mother can know when her only Son is hunted, tortured and murdered before her eyes. She opened herself in full confidence that even though Love suffers in a fallen world, He will overcome. She believed that in the end, we will count the sufferings of this present world to be as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us (see Romans 8:18).

The Holy Spirit overshadowed her. And “while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy Almighty Word leapt down from Heaven from Thy royal throne” (Wisdom 18:14-15). Mary became the new Ark of the Covenant, home to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (and, by extension, to the entire Trinity, for the Three Persons cannot be separated), accompanied wherever she went by the angels who constantly worship before God’s throne (see Isaiah 6:2).

God was not to be outdone. To Mary’s bold humility, to her confident submission, Jesus united His own. “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me; holocausts and sin offerings You took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of Me in the Law, I have come to do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7). “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

God, who didn’t stop at giving us “stuff”, but gave us Himself, is not looking for our “stuff” either. He’s not asking for what we have. “Holocausts and sin offerings You took no delight in” (Hebrews 10:6). He doesn’t need it. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He can raise up children of Abraham from the very stones (Luke 3:8), and if He wants praise, the very rocks will cry out (Luke 19:40). No, He wants us. He wants us to give Him ourselves, to offer Him who we are. We express that surrender tangibly by giving Him what we have, but that’s a secondary gift, like the ring a bridegroom gives his bride to demonstrate that he’s already given himself to her.

The same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary overshadows the bread and wine we bring to the altar every day at Holy Mass. “Let Your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer 2). Jesus makes His eternal Incarnation present to us in time–every day! Every Mass is the Annunciation in miniature. God presents to each of us the proposal He made to Mary. May I give Myself to you, and to the whole world through you? Will you receive Me freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully in Holy Communion. Will you give yourself to Me and let Me make of you a holy Tabernacle in which I may dwell Bodily, in which I may do My Father’s will? Will you trust Me enough to accept the suffering I allow in order that My glory may be revealed in you? May I love you? Will you love Me?

May we accept the divine proposal with confident humility, opening ourselves, as Mary did, to the greatest Gift of all.

Angelus (traditionally prayed in the morning, at noon and at night)

V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit
Hail Mary…
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word
Hail Mary…
V. And the Word became flesh
R. And dwelt among us
Hail Mary…
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Let us pray: 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, come to share in the glory of His resurrection. Through this same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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