Today is the Feast of the Annunciation. For some reason, this has always been one of my favorite feast days in the liturgical year. There is the obvious incarnational aspect of the feast–since this is the first time in the year when we celebrate Christ taking on flesh. It is also a very pro-life feast, perhaps the most pro-life feast, as we contemplate Jesus in the womb of Mary when so many children today are under attack in that most sacred of places.
In the end, I think what I like about this feast is that it is a remarkably rich feast to meditate on. First, the plague of original sin and our need for redemption. Oh happy fault, oh necessary sin of Adam, that brought this world so great a Redeemer! The Annunciation helps us place Lent in the larger context of salvation history. It was at this moment that God invited a woman to help bring back all men to Himself.
Another point of meditation, Mary’s humility and readiness to accept the Lord’s will. This act was simply amazing and I think we could spend a lifetime meditating on it. Mary, first of the disciples, entered into the unknown of God’s will and trusted that His promise would be fulfilled. Oh that we had such faith. Just imagine what the Church would be if we each could capture just a smidgen of what Mary gave to the Lord that day.
These points–and many others besides–have been discussed elsewhere at greater length. For now, I leave you with an excerpt of one of the best homilies of the Church year, from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a personal favorite of mine.
You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us. The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.