Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation
Chapter Talk by Sr. Maria Barrett Today is the feast of the Annunciation. On this great day, the eternal Word of God stooped down from heaven, was made flesh, and came to dwell among us. In His great goodness, in the wise folly of His boundless love for us, God gave Himself to us, humbling Himself and taking the form of a slave so that we who had been conquered by sin and evil might in Him be made their conquerors.
Yet today is not called the feast of the Incarnation, but rather the feast of the Annunciation. The great mystery of the incarnation was made known to us, through the message of an angel. God chose to work this marvel of love through the Mary’s surrender to His word. Let us ponder this event: Gabriel announces the joyful news to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
All this is beyond Mary’s power to accomplish, but she does not become flustered or assume that she needs to do all that is humanly possible towards achieving it; rather, with perfect confidence in God, she asks how He wants to bring it about. The answer reveals new marvels: Mary is to be not simply the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, but also the bearer of her God, the marriage-chamber of God and man, and the ark of the new covenant. It staggers the mind: that uncreated Wisdom should take one’s flesh and become man. Yet all this is to be God’s work, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
And so she responds very simply. What God wants of her is beyond her, and He wishes to bring it about in her through His own action. All that remains for her to do is to surrender herself completely to whatever He wants to do: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” Simple words, yet of great power, for they allow God to act as He wills. Simple words, yet not easy to say and less easy to live, surrendering the comfort of having something she can get done, of having any focus other than what God is asking of her in the moment.
Mary is the great contemplative, the model for all contemplatives. What God asks of us is also beyond any ability we have, and can only come about as a result of His action. Let us ask Mary to help us live as her true children, ever more surrendered to God, ever more focused on God even in the practical daily things of life that God asks of us in the moment. Let us ask her to help us pray those words, “be it done unto me according to thy word,” and to truly allow God to do with us what He likes. We know that what He, in His great love, wants to do with us is better than anything we can imagine or achieve: He wants to conform us to Himself, remaking us after the pattern of Christ, the Divine Word, so that through us He might draw others to Himself, and that together we might be united to Him forever!