The Solemnity of the Annunciation is usually observed on March 25, but this year we are observing it on April 9 because the feast fell during Holy Week this year. The Solemnity celebrates the appearance of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When the angel appeared, he announced to Mary that she had been chosen by God to become the Mother of his Son. It’s important to note that when Gabriel greeted Mary, he referred to her as “Full of Grace,” which reflected her sinlessness – Catholics believe that Mary was pre-redeemed and therefore never committed sin – and also was a form of name change similar to that of Abram changed into Abraham and Saul into Paul. In Scripture, a name change signifies an important change has come about in the person and mission.
What most deeply touches my heart about the Annunciation is that Mary had only one question in response to Gabriel’s request. All she wanted to know was, “How?” She had not had relations with St. Joseph – or any man, for that matter – and had taken a vow of perpetual virginity. How then, would she conceive a child, much less THE Child?
Here’s what I wrote in my book, Imitating Mary
“However, while Mary was perfectly eager to follow God’s will, she didn’t understand how it would come about. Being the Mother of God was an astounding privilege, but there was one not-so-small problem: she was a virgin, not only by her stage of betrothal, but, as some scholars believe, by having taken a vow of virginity. So, humanly speaking, becoming anybody’s mother was impossible for Mary. But it wasn’t impossible for God, and she knew that. That could explain her demeanor of calm-wonder. She was completely calm, trusting in God’s omnipotence and wisdom, but wondering at how the seemingly impossible could become possible.”
I think that’s something to take to heart as we observe today’s solemnity. Think of the many times in your life when you faced an insurmountable task or a seemingly hopeless situation. At that moment, God was “announcing” to you that he had chosen you for a specific mission. How did you respond? If you’re like me, most likely the first word to cross your lips was, “Why?” That’s perfectly understandable, given our human nature.
Perhaps today we can meditate on the happenings of the Annunciation and spend at least a few moments in prayer, conversing with our Blessed Mother. As we pray, we might ask her to teach us her ways and to intercede for us so that, the next time we’re faced with a special mission from God, we’ll ask “How?” and not “Why?”
Image: The annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Wikimedia Commons