Today, March 25, is one of the happiest days on the Church calendar because today we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord. This is the day – exactly nine months before Christmas Day – when we honor what we pray in the Angelus: “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.”
The very basic beliefs of our faith – the Incarnation of Christ, His birth to a virgin and God’s very real participation in our lives – are, in my opinion, encapsulated in this one holiday.
God showed His unfathomable love for us by consenting to become one of us. He shared our human nature to redeem us from our own sinfulness. He did this, as we recall in the Angelus, so that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
As recounted in Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel told Mary that she is “highly favored” and “the Lord is with you.” He told her that she would “conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
I am filled with awe when I think how Mary – at first incredulous and asking, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” – immediately surrenders to God’s will. Her response to Gabriel – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” – changed history.
Outside of Jesus’s own Passion and death, I can think of no greater example of complete and perfect submission to God’s will than when Mary consented to become the Mother of God.
This miraculous and saving event has been honored by our Church almost from the very beginning.
There is a fresco in the catacombs of Priscilla depicting the Annunciation that dates to the fourth century, and the early Church fathers commented on this great event. St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s prayer praising the Annunciation says to Our Lady, “open your heart to faith, your lips to consent and your womb to your Creator.” He adds that when Mary said “yes,” she “breathed one fleeing word and embraced the everlasting Word.”
In the two millennia that the Church has proclaimed Jesus, the reverence for and wonder at the Annunciation has not abated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 973) says that “at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever He is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.” Pope Francis, speaking about the Annunciation in 2016, said that “Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the door to Jesus.”
Today we celebrate with joy that Mary consented to be the Mother of God, and by extension, the mother of all of us. We praise God and offer him our undying thanks because He has given us a mother whom all generations call blessed and whose “soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”