Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation
As is the custom in our monastery, one of the youngest in the novitiate gives the sermon at Solemn Chapter which is held the day before the great Solemnity of the Annunciation. This year Sr. Mary Cecilia gave the sermon. Below is her talk.
My dear sisters;
|Sr. Maria sings the Prologue to St. John's Gospel as the Sisters listen.|
“But how can this be?” Mary asked a question that any of us in the face of a great mystery would ask. Zechariah too asked a question when told of the seemingly impossible. The difference between his question and that of Mary is that while Zechariah wanted proof before he would believe, Mary believed before she had proof.
What appears on the surface to be a question of hestitation reflects a much deeper question that all of humanity asks: How can the Infinite God take on our flesh and step into history? Even over 2000 years after the fact, many people do not believe that it is possible simply because they can’t figure it out. And yet, therein lies the wonder of Mary’s response. The proposition by the angel was not easier to believe in Nazareth all those years ago; but where human reason was likely saying “No”, Mary’s faith said “yes.”
|Sr. Mary Cecilia gives her talk as Sr. Denise Marie listens.|
But what foundation did Mary have that allowed her to make such a bold statement of faith, to step out with complete trust in God? Grace, most certainly. But I also think that she did not hesitate because she knew, to use the words of Romano Guardini, that “Love does such things!” Her belief in the power of God’s love for His people showed itself in an act of trust in God that is beyond human comprehension in an act that no human intellect can grasp. (RG)
From the moment of her “Fiat”, Mary wholeheartedly accepted the mystery of her Son. And how often He must have seemed to remain a mystery to her: as a child remaining behind in the Temple, the apparent initial refusal at the wedding at Cana, to His Passion and Death. Even though she was the first human to be permitted to discover Christ, she continually needed to re-affirm her fiat, calling to mind the words of the angel about her Son. (Redemptoris Mater)
The Annunciation marks the beginning of Mary’s pilgrimage of faith with Christ. Scripture tells us that while the child Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph He was obedient to them and continued to grow in wisdom. But how Mary’s wisdom must have also grown as she lived “in intimacy with the mystery of her Son”! (RM) How often are we told that she “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart?”In this way, she provides an example to us not only of obedience but also of perseverance in the journey of faith. In pondering the life of her Son, she shows us how to dive in to the mysteries of God. For as St. Ambrose said: “Even though she was the Mother of the Lord, she wanted to learn His precepts. She, who had given birth to God, desired to know God still better.”
Our own journey of faith has also been marked by an annunciation of sorts. To use Msgr. Guardini’s example: “The Annunciation is re-enacted, spiritually, in the life of every one of the faithful, especially when man touched for the first time by the person and Word of Christ, recognizes the truth and craves to embrace it. The Lord, in His body and living might, enters into him at this moment. Now begins the penetration and growth of Christ in man; the reshaping of man in Him. From here on, the summons is always repeated. Every hearing of Christ’s truth, every radiation of His image, every reminder of His commandments demands that we take Him deep into our hearts and put ourselves at His disposal willingly.” (The Rosary of Our Lady)
|The Chantresses sing the beautiful responsory Verbum Caro from Matins of Christmas and the Annunciation.|
These acts of faith serve as the beginning of all growth in understanding, for by its very nature faith seeks to understand (CCC). Faith doesn’t exclude knowledge, but nor does knowledge exclude mystery as there are things that can only be known through faith alone. We can be certain of them only when we trust in the One who has revealed them to us. It is faith that makes our souls capable of receiving and comprehending the mysteries of God (Augustine). To use the words of St. Augustine: “I believe in order to understand; and I understand the better to believe.” Not only does Mary’s life serve as the perfect example of this balance, but it is her acceptance of the will of God which gave God a place to dwell in the world and a place for humanity to meet Him. (BXVI)
May Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom, intercede for us so that when we are faced with the mysteries of God we too may respond in faith and so enter in to a deeper understanding of the mystery of God.