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The Handmaid Of The Lord

Reflection on Luke 1:26-38

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God…to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her he said, ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.’”

With what readiness Gabriel brings this message—the message God’s people have longed for ages to hear. One can almost sense all of creation leaning forward, eagerly listening to the angelic greeting, waiting expectantly for what will follow. How reverently the angel approaches this sinless Virgin, beholding the beauty of the one able to receive God’s Word. Mary is wholly open to God. No wonder that in art, Gabriel is portrayed as bowing or genuflecting to Our Lady. Such purity of soul has not been seen since before the Fall.

“But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Mary, who stands without fear before this heavenly messenger, is yet troubled by what he says of her. She wouldn’t dream of claiming any special privilege; indeed, her eyes are typically turned away from self and toward God. Behold the greatness of her humility! Empty of self, she has room to welcome the Savior.

“‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” Gabriel goes on to say her son will be the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God, the long-desired everlasting King. Wouldn’t the heart of this daughter of Sion leap with joy at these words? The world itself might pause in breathless wonder as God unfolds His plan to fulfill His promises.

Mary’s one last question regards the gift of her virginity—this total gift of self to God that is certainly to be forever treasured. Our Lady is conversing with the Lord, that is, speaking honestly and listening deeply. “‘How can this be?’” she asks. Not “it can’t be,” but “how can this be?”

Gabriel gives her the answer: “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….’”

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’”

In this moment, how great was the rejoicing in heaven…

* * *

It is good to linger at the moment of Mary’s Annunciation…this moment of awe, peace, rejoicing, heaven touching earth. One wants to remain here in wonder. But not even Mary remains. She goes, in haste, to Elizabeth. And begins her mission to bring Jesus to others, to her children.

Today we are midway between the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our attention on December 8th was focused on God’s wonderful fashioning of Mary—wholly pure, without sin. And we cannot help but glance ahead at her response to the Lord, her total “yes.” On the 12th we will look upon Mary our Mother, the Star of the New Evangelization, the one who brings comfort to her children, who brings

them her Son.

In these “Marian days,” it is fitting to linger with Our Lady at the Annunciation. And to ask her to form us in our mission as Christ-bearers to the world. Let us also go to Our Blessed Mother with all of our needs, our prayers, our concerns. We can take to heart her words to St. Juan Diego, for she says them to us too: “Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?”

Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR



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