by D. Werburg Welch
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
The divine messenger, standing in her simple home, bowing down to ask would she consent to God's will. The Divine humbling itself to the human, lowering itself down to the level of the created for to be able to ultimately divinise the dust of the earth. To walk with us, among us, as one of us through this "vale of tears". The fact that God-made-Man, entered into our existence, entered into our human history, experienced our pains, our joys, our needs, “like us in all things except sin,”is the ultimate hope given to us. The in-breaking of God into human history enables us to share in the ultimate love between the persons of the Godhead expressed as the Holy Spirit. Because Christ has taken on our frail human nature, we are able to participate in, no rather are part of, the Divine Eros, the Divine Love epitomised by the sending of that Spirit of Love on the first Pentecost, the manifestation of love on the world. No longer are we just made in the image and likeness of God, through His sharing in our humanity we share ultimately in his divinity.
Where do we stand in that room at the Annunciation?
In very human terms, still very much happening today, frightened young girls and women are giving birth in conditions not much better and often worse, relying on the divine grace of their human female nature – often so defiled and abused by the societies that they are in - to bring to climax the process of creation which they have participated in either willingly or unwillingly. Like that young Jewish girl giving birth without the benefit of midwives they too often “experience an unescorted birth; labour without amenity…there are no women present” .
But even before the messiness, the pain and suffering of birth in a dark cave where a mother, in her ultimate gift to the world, in bringing new life into that ungrateful world, prefigures the blood and pain of Calvary, she had suffered for her willingness to be open to the message of God.
She suffered from staring eyes and whispers behind her back which forced her to the shelter of her cousin Elizabeth to the consolation of another woman in the same predicament as she. Small consolation to her, but surely it offers hope to any woman in the situation of an unexpected pregnancy and worried about “what the neighbours may say”.
She suffered in the uncertainty as to whether her fiancée would stand by her in what in human terms he could have seen as being an ultimate betrayal. We can say that “Joseph was a very decent man. He didn’t want to give his girlfriend a bad reputation and after a reassuring dream he married her. But was it a happy life?”
She suffered “when Jesus was twelve they lost him in the crowd and when they found him, after three days of anxiously looking, their question: “Why did you do this to us?” was answered with something close to a reproach: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house”(Luke 2:49)? This response, “But didn’t you know I have more important things to do than pay attention to you,” is hardly consoling” to Mary and Joseph but must give hope to any parents of angst-ridden teenagers.
Take and eat…take and drink….we eat of his body, broken on the Cross, birthed in pain and suffering in a dark cave. We drink of his blood poured out for us, but as blood and water flowed from his side, so too it poured forth at this birth, prefiguring the sacrifice to be made on Calvary. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary was that she would experience suffering too for having brought this child into the world, but what mother does not experience suffering from the moment of birth as her child grows further and further away from her into their own person and ultimately journeys back to the God that made them?
“When Jesus hands over his body to the disciples he is vulnerable. He is in their hands for them to do as they wish...It embodies a tenderness that means that one may well get hurt. It is a self gift that may be met with rebuff and mockery and in which one may feel oneself to be used. The Last Supper shows us with extreme realism the perils of giving ourselves to anyone…The Last Supper is the story of the risk of giving yourself to others. That is why Jesus died, because he loved. But not to take the risk is even more dangerous. It is deadly…Love is the only impetus that is sufficiently overwhelming to force us to leave the comfortable shelter of our well-armed individuality, shed the impregnable shell of self-sufficiency, and crawl nakedly into the danger zone beyond, the melting pot where individuality is purified into personhood.”
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
did not enter her without consent.
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.
Salt + Light - Because Mary said “Yes…” — A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord
Phil over at Ennis Blue
America - The Annunciation and You
Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on the Annunciation Advent 2012 - “The Annunciation wouldn’t have made today's headlines”
iBenedictines reflections- 2011, 2012
OCA - The Annunciation: Announcing the Incarnation
Totus2us - The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary