Him, Virgin, Who You Conceived
Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. Hail, Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with you.
With these words, the Archangel Gabriel greets the Mother of God. So too do we greet her as ourmother when we pray her Rosary. This first line is what gave the "Hail Mary" its earlier title: "The Angelic Salutation."
The Annunciation brings forth the mystery of God's desire to cooperate with our nature and our wills. After the fall of Adam and Eve, He could have done anything He so desired, appearing on the earth fully grown, coming as a powerful King attended by the court of heaven, or not even coming to us at all, simply leaving us to wallow in our sin.
But instead, he came to us in utter humility, asking to be born.
God sent his messenger Gabriel to Mary, a virgin betrothed to the man Joseph, a descendant of David. This angel greets her not by her name, but by a title. We know this because the particular word Gabriel uses, which translates as hail in English and ave in Latin (think "Hail Ceaser"), is used in Luke elsewhere by those who question or mock Christ's kingship, "Hail, King of the Jews."
Understandably, she was, "greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be." (Luke 1:29) It's no small thing to be A) greeted by an angel, and B) greeted by an obvious allusion to royalty. It's no small thing to be asked to be God's mother.
We, too, should then be troubled, for He who stands knocking at the door of our heart is asking us for our fiat, our "Let it be done unto me according to thy word." He wishes to be born in our hearts as He was born in Mary's womb, a font of life within us.
The Community of Saint John talks about this desire of Christ, and need of ours, by throwing out the "recharging your batteries" analogy of the faith. So often we get the sense that our "religious" life or our "faith" life is separate and distinct from our "outside" life or our "real" life, and so we bring Christ to those around us like a bucket brings water from the well.
But did Christ say, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Faith Life"? Didn't think so.
We must not return to the source every Sunday to "recharge the battery." Eucharist is the source and summit of our spiritual life, but Sunday worship isn't about us, it's about Him. We go because He has asked us to, not because we get something out of it. It's not that we should deny the great gift that we receive, but rather that we should recognize that it is a gift, not something to be grasped at.
Instead, what we should see is that He doesn't wish us to carry Him as in a bucket, because when the bucket is empty, there's none left for us, and we risk becoming spiritually dead. He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. He came that He might be the font of life welling up within us!!
The mystery of the Annunciation is that I AM, the creator of all, asked His creature, Mary, to be His mother, to bring Him to the world. The mystery of the Annunciation is that I AM, the creator of all, asks His creatures, us, to be His mother and brothers and sisters, to bring Him to the world. He desires to be born in our hearts that He might send the Spirit of God to be the fons vivus, ignis, caritas - the font of life, fire and love which indwells in our spirit always, not just in our "faith life."
There is so much more about this mystery which can be explored and told, such as how the same words are used to describe Mary being "filled by the Holy Spirit" and the presence of God filling the Ark of the Covenant, or how the tense of verb used as her title points to her Immaculate Conception. However, I think I'll paraphrase John here by noting that if we were to blog about all the facets of the Mystery of the Assumption, the interwebz could not contain it all. Instead, I leave you with Luke 1:26-37 from theDouay-Rheims translation:
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.