The Annunciation of the Lord
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10
St. Irenaeus, a second century bishop, records the importance of this feast. There is also another ancient tradition that marks the death of Jesus on March 25th. Today this feast day comes as we are in the midst of Lent, and it brings something of the ineffable season of Christmas.
In Luke, God works among ordinary people. Zachary the elderly priest is going about his temple duties. Elizabeth is a faith filled wife. Mary is a young maiden betrothed to Joseph, the carpenter. They live in an insignificant village, in an unimportant outpost of the Roman Empire. There the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.
Luke focuses on the words spoken by the angel and Mary’s response. Luke does this because it is God who is the principle actor in this scenario. Gabriel’s parting words are: "Nothing is impossible for God!" He is right: a barren couple bear a child. A virgin conceives a child. God becomes human. A tomb will beget the resurrection. The Spirit of God will inspire the Church.
Like Mary, God enters our life at half stream and turns it around. Gabriel waited for Mary’s answer. God waited for Mary’s answer. We all carry the promise of salvation within us. God awaits our answers. Mary had no idea what was in store for her. She entered into the imagination of God. Her whole life, body and soul, was caught up in God’s grace. She was led by the Spirit into the full truth of Jesus’ suffering, passion, death and resurrection.
Mary’s yes enlivened history, and changed the future. Mary’s example teaches us that God interrupts our lives when we least expect it. Mary’s honor and dignity come from her relationship with Jesus and her faith filled response to God’s call. To accept interruption becomes a principle of our life. Thus peace and salvation come into the world.
Fr. Kenneth O’Malley, C.P. is the archivist at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.