The Annunciation of the Lord

The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa 1898

Today, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord.  Normally, this Solemnity is observed on March 25, but because that day fell within Holy Week this year, the celebration has been transferred to today.  For most of the year, the Church gathers each day to pray the Angelus, except during the Easter Season, when the Regina Caeli is recited instead.  In the Angelus, we recall the appearance of the angel Gabriel and the response of the Virgin Mary, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”  And the Word was made Flesh; and dwelt among us.

To understand God’s plan for our salvation after our fall from grace calls us to reflect on the role of Mary. When we turn to the pages of sacred Scripture we see unfolding the dynamic of this divine mystery.  Gabriel’s message to Mary that she was to be the Mother of God, and her response to it, set the stage for everything else that will happen.  Salvation of mankind through the Incarnation of the Eternal Word and the Paschal Mystery all hung on Mary’s response.  With her “fiat” – her “yes” to God – came the beginning of a whole new order, a new creation.

The Virgin became a mother, and it is an enduring motherhood that extends to all the faithful.  As former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said in a homily in 2011 before he became Pope Francis, the motherhood of Mary is one with “a double childbirth: one in Bethlehem and another at Calvary. It is a motherhood that contains and accompanies the friends of her Son, who is the only reference until the end of time. [She is] a mother who opens spaces for grace to enter in – that grace that revolutionizes and transforms our existence and our identity; the Holy Spirit that makes us adopted sons, frees us from all slavery and, in a real and mystical possession, gives us the gift of freedom and cries out from within us the invocation of the new belonging: ‘Father!’”

In the Virgin Mother is the pure, living dwelling-place of God. She teaches us that God does not dwell in buildings of stone, but in the living hearts of those who accept him.  Because Mary is totally with God, she is also close to us.  For this reason, she is rightly called the mother of every consolation and every help.

Yesterday, we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, for which we express our gratitude to both God and Mary, Mother of Mercy.  As Blessed John Paul II explains in Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), “Mary experiences, in perfect docility to the Spirit, the richness and the universality of God’s love, which opens her heart and enables it to embrace the entire human race. Thus Mary becomes Mother of each and every one of us, the Mother who obtains for us divine mercy.”

Mary is truly “blessed among women.”  She stands at the center of the mystery of salvation, a mystery which embraces all of humanity.  To this most gracious advocate, we rightly say that she is our life, our sweetness, and our hope, imploring that she turn her eyes of mercy toward us and show us the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.  Standing by her side, remaining with her, let us also ask this Holy Mother of God to pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ during this Year of Faith and always.

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