On April 4, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which is the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the special mission God had chosen for her in being the mother of His only Son. This solemnity is also the first joyful mystery of the rosary and an event which should fill our hearts with joy and thanksgiving.
The Franciscans tell us: “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit.” In doing so, they describe the annunciation as the Blessed Virgin Mary’s first joy.
In the first chapter of Luke, we learn that the Angel Gabriel, who was sent by God, shared with the Blessed Virgin Mary the message that she was to be the Mother of God. Imagine the joy in the heart of Mary when she learned from this messenger of God that she, who was willing to be but a handmaid or servant in the household of the Lord, was actually to be the Mother of God! What joy and happiness at the greeting of the angel! What joy to know that now within her womb she carried the Son of God!
The first word the angel addressed to the Blessed Virgin was an invitation to joy. The Ambassador of God greeted her by saying: “Hail, full of grace.” Hail is our English translation of the Greek word “chaire” which means “rejoice”.
St. John Paul II tells us that there are three reasons for the angel Gabriel’s invitation to joy: (1) God’s saving presence among his people, (2) the coming of the Messiah, and (3) free and gratuitous fruitfulness – which all find their fulfillment in Mary.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Zephaniah says: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! (Zep. 3:14). In this passage, the prophet is personifying Israel by referring to her as the “daughter of Zion”. This term “daughter of Zion” refers to faithful Israel as a whole, who awaits her Messiah. In the New Testament, Mary is the new daughter of Zion who has good reason to rejoice because God has chosen her as his humble servant to fulfill His plan of salvation. Mary is the perfect daughter of Zion because she fulfills the expectation of Israel for the Messiah. She is the immaculate Virgin who eagerly awaits the coming of the Savior.
God invites Mary, as the new Daughter of Zion to enter into deep joy. Mary accepts this role not only on behalf of all the people of David, but on behalf of all humanity because the Old Testament extended the Davidic Messiah to all nations (Ps 2:8, 72:8).
As the new Daughter of Zion, Mary is the virgin of the covenant which God establishes with all mankind. As the new Daughter of Zion, Mary is specifically suited to entering into the spousal relationship with God. As a consecrated virgin, she offers God the true heart of a bride. Although consecrated virginity did not exist in Israel at that time, Mary entrusted her virginity to God. She was the first woman to make such a vow.
Through faith, this bride of Christ listens to the voice of God and freely submits her entire being to the plan of God over her life. Through her selfless Fiat, Mary was immediately cooperating with the entire work of what Jesus would accomplish. The word obey comes from the Latin ob-audire which means to hear or listen to. Mary possesses the virtues of faith, humility, and simplicity that permit her to listen to God and to put his plan into practice. We know that Mary does not simply submit to nor passively accept God’s plan for her life, but she eagerly desires to fulfill it and enthusiastically embraces it. As the Bride of the Church, Mary does not view her role as a duty or task to be completed, but sees herself as a lover, who desires the happiness of her spouse, and responds passionately with love to please the beloved. She acts solely out of love and obedience to God. Mary was motivated, above all, by love. She lovingly and obediently embraced God’s will in her life.
"What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us."
~ St. Gregory of Nyssa
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann March, 2016