31 March 2008

Spoken to by God

Solemnity of the Annunciation: Isa 7.10-14, 8.10; Heb 10.4-10; Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will be the Mother of God is both a declaration of future fact and a revelation; that is, Gabriel tells Mary that she, a virgin, will conceive and bear a son and Gabriel reveals to Mary who her son will be: the Son of God, the promised Messiah. That this episode from Luke is an announcement from the mouth of an archangel that the Messiah is coming is special enough, but that it is also a revelation from God, a revealing of Himself to us, is extraordinary. Fr. Jean Danielou, in his characteristically subdued manner, writes: “The revelation given to Mary is of the same order as the other revelations recounted in both Testaments. With it we are evidently faced with one of the essential affirmations of Scripture, one of the essential objects of faith: that God speaks to man”(23). Surely, our celebration this morning marks our Blessed Mother’s acceptance of her messianic motherhood. But is it too bold to suggest that what we truly celebrate this morning is extra-ordinary gift of hearing the Father speak to His creation? After all, we do not celebrate the Solemnity of the Invitation this morning, or the Solemnity of the Pregnancy of Mary. We celebrate a divine annunciation, a Word spoken to a creature for the universal benefit of all creation.

And though we do not celebrate Mary this morning, we do honor her faith in the Word. Our Testaments testify to the fact that God has revealed Himself to prophets, priests, kings, and even children, pulling back the Creator/creature veil to allow us to glimpse through their witness the glory that reigns supreme. Mary encounters more than an archangel, more than a mere angelic invitation; she is confronted with the fulfillment of the Messianic promise; she is shown, head on, face up the culmination of her people’s historic anticipation of their salvation. In effect, she is shown the end and the beginning of the promise that our Father spoke to Ahaz: Emmanuel, “God is with us!” Mary’s faith in the divine achievement of the impossible moves this promise from the Word to the world.

Fr. Danielou writes, “Faith is the recognition of revelation, and of equal importance in going to make up saving history. Faith is the special mark of biblical man”(24). Mary’s trust in the truth of Gabriel’s announcement that she will bear the Word into World is exemplary; it is also prophetic and priestly: she brings us to our end in Christ and she stands between us and the divine, offering herself as sacrifice, giving herself to God as a bloodless holocaust to bring our final and true Mediator into the flesh. With her Son, Mary says, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God!” but it is Christ who alone who accomplishes his Father’s will for us on the Cross. Word made flesh, he dies for us so that we might live.

Our eucharist this morning, this early morning party of praise and thanksgiving, brings that same Word into the world, making us carriers of the hope of creation’s salvation. St Peter says that we are a “living hope.” Jesus himself sends us out to be that living hope for others. Mary says yes to the work of bearing the Word. And so do we. Every “amen” we exclaim this morning binds us to the annunciation, to the revelation that God not only speaks to us, but he also holds us to our baptismal promise to speak of Him, to be His revelation in the world to every heart and mind free to see and hear. So, when you pray “amen” this morning, you pray a promise along with Christ and his Mother: “Here I am, Lord; I come to your will.”

Danielou, Jean. The Infancy Narratives. Herder & Herder, 1968.

Pic credit: Henry Tanner