Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
IS 7:10-14; 8:10/HEB 10:4-10/LK 1:26-38
Today, we interrupt our Lenten observances to celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord. In the gospel passage for this solemnity, Luke introduces us to a young peasant woman in a far-flung corner of the Mediterranean occupied by a foreign power at the moment an angel arrives to ask her to undertake an awesome task: become the mother of the Son of God. Initially, Mary was understandably perplexed by Gabriel’s presence. The angel responds with that familiar phrase of reassurance: “Do not be afraid,” and proceeds to tell her about the mission God wishes to entrust to her. Mary replies with an audacious yes!
Each time I encounter this story, I am struck by Mary’s fortitude and agency, especially given her cultural and familial context. Although she’s already betrothed to Joseph, she does not confer with him. Instead, she trusts and says yes. Luke immediately follows the Annunciation scene by recounting Mary’s visit with Elizabeth, an encounter that prompts Mary’s song of praise we know as the Magnificat. In her book, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris describes Mary’s words as “...a poetic rendering of a theme that pervades the entire biblical narrative--when God comes into our midst, it is to upset the status quo.”
Gabriel’s final words to Mary before she answers proclaim, “for nothing will be impossible for God.” An assertion evident in God’s astonishing choice to pursue restoring the Creator’s relationship with creation in a way so potentially fraught with complications. Indeed, bringing about the Incarnation by collaborating with a young woman living near the margins of society, and who risks further ostracizing if she is found pregnant and unmarried, doesn’t appear to be an especially conventional strategy or one bound for overwhelming success. We can only understand this by returning to the lesson of Mary’s prophetic canticle: God disrupts human expectations. As our Lenten journey resumes tomorrow, and proceeds toward Holy Week and Easter, let us be attentive to how God is doing something surprising both in the Christian story we remember during these most sacred days and how we are called to participate in that narrative now as disciples.
Director of Liturgy