SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
Reverend Frederick L. Miller
Seminary Professor of Systematic Theology
The Mystery of the Annunciation
“My souls proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Luke 1: 46
Artists throughout the ages have helped Christians grasp the deep meaning of the Gospel of the Annunciation. Three details frequently included by artists come immediately to mind. First, Mary is often depicted kneeling with a book in her hands. The point is that she was grounded in the Word of God and lived in a spirit of silence and prayer.
Second, the Angel Gabriel is frequently dressed as a Deacon in these artistic renderings of the Gospel scene. He wears a dalmatic or stole, or both. The theological point is that Gabriel comes from God to do what every deacon is ordained to do: He proclaims the Gospel of salvation to Mary.
Third, in some of the paintings of the Annunciation, a ray of light from outside of the painting passes through the Angel. The light is directed towards Mary and often towards her ear. On occasion, there is a tiny translucent infant in the ray of light. The point: The Word/Son comes from the Father of Light. Gabriel is his messenger, his instrument. Mary receives the Word and conceives the Word through hearing and believing. St. Augustine taught in the 5th century that Mary first conceived the Word of God in her mind through faith and then in her flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mary’s response to the Angel’s message, her fiat—“I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word”—has often been described by saints and doctors as an act of faith. The virgin of Nazareth heard the Word of God spoken to her by Gabriel. She pondered the word deeply in her heart. Mary said “yes”! “I’ll do what you propose! I’ll do it for God!” Her abandonment to the will of God expressed in the Word necessitated a great deal of hope. Without knowing how the future would unfold, this young girl trusted the God of her people would care for all her needs.
However, Mary’s fiat was more. Above everything her fiat was, and is, an act of charity. Before the day of the Annunciation, Mary’s love had looked for a way to manifest itself. In an unprecedented act, Mary desired to give her virginity to God. She wanted to be his bride to make expiation for the sins and infidelities of her people. Even though she was engaged to Joseph, her deepest desire was virginity for the King-dom. Hence, Mary’s question to the angel, “How will this be since I am a virgin (Lk 1:34)?”
The Angel’s message confirmed Mary’s desire to love God with an undivided heart as his bride. She would conceive God’s Son, the Messiah, not by human seed but through the power of the Holy Spirit. She would be forever, and all at the same time, virgin, bride, and mother. In her self-surrender to God, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). And Mary became the Virgin Mother of God.
Holy Mother of God, you brought the Savior into the world through your faith, your hope, and your charity. Help us, your children, to believe in Christ, to trust him, and to love him as our Lord and God. Lead us on the way to holiness in this life
and to the eternal enjoyment of God in Heaven. Amen.
Dn 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or Dn 13: 41c-62, Ps 23: 1-6, Jn 4: 43-54