“HOLLA atcha, Mary,” said the angel, “you’re finna have a kid, tho”: The Solemnity of the Annunciation

The less crass and more reverent version of the title of this post might go something like this:

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. 

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1)

Today the Church celebrates the great solemnity of the Annunciation, calling to mind the sending of the Angel Gabriel to Mary announcing that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son, who would be the Messiah.

The image above is my all time favorite depiction of the Annunciation. A simple, humble, and completely pure Jewish girl alone in her room doing whatever it is simple, humble, and completely pure Jewish girls did in ancient Israel. She’s surrounded not by a chubby baby with wings or some great trumpet blaring bird-person, but a quiet and yet overwhelming beam of the purest light from on high. From this light, Mary received the most perplexing greeting: Hail, Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you. (Lk 1:28) This, followed by the strangest news: “behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called son of the Most High.” (Lk 1:32)

Mary gives the almost-most perfect response: “How can this be?”

God barges into Mary’s life, indeed as the Incarnate Word he barged into the life of the entire world, and changed everything. All at once, the world and its apathetic inhabitants are shaken from the silence of their sinful slumber by the clamor of God’s own messenger proclaiming the dawn of the One to come, the One for whom all of Israel has waited. “For while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne into the doomed land.” (Wisdom 18:14-5)

Sometimes I feel guilty for having some encounter with the divine, or one that I at least believe to be divinely inspired, and instead of immediately saying, “yes, ok, God I believe it”, I often want to say, “but wait, how can this be?” Ours is a God of surprises. No one in ancient Israel would have guessed that the long-awaited Messiah would himself be God, or that this God exists as a trinity of persons, three-in-one, or that this being who is both fully God and fully man would himself become the expiation for our sins.

How can this be?

Our materialistic, utilitarian, purpose-driven world has trouble with divine things. We have trouble with things we can’t “wrap our minds around” by means of a microscope or lab test. We can’t quite get into things that seem to have no immediate purpose. We don’t like things that make reference to our jaded past, both as individuals and as a society, and we certainly don’t feel comfortable romping around in the wounds of that past for some glimpse, some key into our future health or healing or happiness.

So when we encounter divine things, maybe direct experiences of God or through messengers or through people or nature or whatever, we don’t always know what to do. In these moments, it’s not usually “how can this be”, and is instead “there’s no way this can be”, and we reject it.

This Lent, this Easter, this year, this life let’s make the decision not to let any good (and if you’re really brave, any bad) thing come into or out of our lives without asking that golden question: How can this be? How can it be that the God of the universe is here and wishes to make himself known to me? How can it be that despite everything I’ve said and done to him and against him that he is still here with me, pursuing me with the greatest fervor?

Ask that golden question so that eventually, with Mary, you can utter with confidence, clarity, and grace the platinum statement: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

May the words of Elizabeth to Mary be true also of us: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:45)

In Christ,

RA

The Angelus:

. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae,
. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Ecce ancilla Domini.
. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Et Verbum caro factum est.
. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Oremus. Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. ℟: Amen.

. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. And the Word was made flesh.
. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.