In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
“Aren’t there annunciations/ of one sort or another/ in most lives?”
Denise Levertov poses the question in her powerful poem “Annunciation.” Drawing on her imagination, her own life, and what she saw in others, Levertov fleshes out Luke’s gospel scene in vivid color.
Gabriel’s announcement did not leave Mary without questions or concerns. The angel’s proposal would change Mary’s life, all life, for all time. Yet, even in her uncertainty, Mary accepted God’s invitation with grace, courtesy. She took the angel’s words to ponder in her inmost being.
Ultimately, Mary said yes. Denise Levertov writes that Mary’s response made her the “bravest of all humans.” Her consent “lit up the room.”
Sure, there were plenty of other responses Mary might have made—she was human and therefore free. So are we. She could have turned away saying, “I’m not qualified,” “I’m not worthy,” or “I’m afraid.” “I’m too young” or “too old.” Or, as Levertov says, she could have “gritted her teeth” and unwillingly lived out “a great destiny,” all the while raging within or feeling “coerced.”
This morning I stood at a graveside as we buried a close friend’s mother. It was a hard place to be in this “merry” season, but also an invitation to fuller life and love. Tonight, a young couple I didn’t know invited me to look closely at their five-week old baby. I marveled at the baby’s peaceful sleep in a crowded restaurant, at her tiny fingers, her young parents’ pride. I am grateful to have all those images fresh and alive as I contemplate the Annunciation passage, Mary’s response, and how Christ comes into the world.
In what ways has God drawn and invited you?
—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dear God, when your invitation comes, let me notice. Lead me to ponder in my inmost being. Guide me with your wisdom, that I might ask good questions. Nudge me beyond my usual default positions–despair, fear, inadequacy, excuses. Help me to see clearly the ways you draw me to new life. Give me Mary’s courage to say “yes.”
—Mary Anne ReesePlease share the Good Word with your friends!