25 March 2010

The Annunciation of the Lord

25 MARCH 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord: the announcement of the Achangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary nine months before Christmas that she would bear a Son, having been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and her son would be the savior of the world.

From the Gospel of Saint Luke, we hear the story of the Annunciation:
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
 (Lk 1, 26-38 Douay-Rheims, 1899)

The Solemnity of the Annunciation has been celebrated in the Church since at least the sixth century and is mentioned between A.D. 530 and A.D. 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. The first verified mention of the Annunciation is in the Galesian Sacramentary in the seventh century. And, the tenth synod of Toledo (A.D. 656) and the Trullan synod (A.D. 692) speak of the Annunciation as a universally accepted feast of the Church.

The Annunciation gives humanity its clearest example of surrender to the Lord in a manner that is at the zenith of humanity's comparability to the Lord's surrender of Himself for our race. Mary does not question Gabriel and does not defer her response to Gabriel's greeting until a more convenient moment. She simply says, "Yes." This simple yes, which in its nature is probably the most significant response of humanity to the Lord prior to the coming of the Son of God, is no simple nor trivial act. Mary gives herself freely and without reservation to the Divine Will of God, reserving nothing for herself and nothing for the world. And, through this greatest gift of human love expressed in deed for the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ comes into the world to redeem the whole of the history and future of humanity.

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death. 


IMAGE: El Greco (Spain 1541-1614).

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