Today we ponder an unimaginable wonder: the conception of God as man in the womb of a young virgin. The miracle that takes place in secret at the Annunciation will remain an unseen mystery for nine months, until the day we celebrate the birth of God as man on December 25, Christmas Day. We recall the moment of the Annunciation every time we pray the Angelus.
For centuries God was preparing for this extraordinary moment. In fact, all of human history from the time of the fall of our first parents was a long Advent Season, waiting and preparing for the time when the Word would become flesh. One of the most significant moments along the way was the astounding prophecy of Isaiah to the stubborn King Ahaz. Ahaz was pretending to be humble, but in fact he was resisting the possibility that the prophet might give a sign or a message that would interfere with his plans. This is why Isaiah accused the king of “wearying” God. Even though God is changeless in his desire to save us, in a sense, we “wear him out” when we harden our hearts and sit in self-will. And yet, as if to show that he is not weary at all, the Lord reveals a sign, right in the midst of this most unreceptive environment: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
Some eight hundred years later, the angel Gabriel announces the same mystery, not speaking about an unknown future virgin, but addressing the virgin right before him, Mary of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” When Mary questions how such a thing can happen, the angel explains that it will take place by “the power of the Most High.” Her child will be not only the son of man, but at the same time the Son of God. The angel gives an additional sign of the power of God at work: the pregnancy of the barren and elderly Elizabeth. “Nothing will be impossible for God!”
When Mary receives the whole message, she shows that she is entirely unlike King Ahaz. Ahaz, like Eve, clings to his own will, but Mary, the New Eve, abandons all her personal plans and embraces the will of God with her whole heart. Her response to Gabriel seems brief and simple, but in a few words, she identifies clearly who she is and what she has freely decided: she is the handmaid of the Lord, and she has chosen his will as her own. “May it be done to me according to your word.” With Mary’s fiat, the Word becomes flesh and begins to dwell among us. In nine months we will see the face of God, but the Incarnation begins today with the Virgin’s “yes.”
We are moved to silent adoration and profound gratitude before this mystery. We also learn an essential lesson from the response of Mary; we learn the power of a “yes” to God. Many things happen in life that we do not decide. We suffer from illnesses, severe storms, or sudden accidents. We are reminded of how powerful the forces of nature are. But a “yes” to God is much more powerful! When we unite our will with God’s will, as Mary does, he can act on our behalf as he wills – and nothing is impossible for him!
On this feast in which we celebrate the secret beginning of our salvation, we too say “yes” to the power of God at work in the secret of our hearts. “To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”
How does my hardheartedness and self-will “weary God”? When have I experienced great peace and joy in surrendering my total “yes” to God’s plan for me? At times, why do I find it difficult to surrender my will to God?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.