Photo: Philippe de Champaigne. The Annunciation, ca.1644. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
The Feast of the Annunciation, March 31, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the Incarnation of Our Savior, the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.
Look around and you will see chaos, confusion, conflict, even total consternation. Where is the One who has brought harmony and peace?
The Original Fall of mankind came about because the First Parents wanted to know good and evil — thus to be as God. They were tempted to this by the evil one who asked why they were not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the garden. They simply stated that God commanded them not to partake of the fruit less they die. The father of lies deceived them, and they ate — first Eve and then Adam, tempted by Eve. Their eyes were opened, and they saw they were naked so they hid from God who would visit them at eventide. They did not physically die but they did die to the gift of intimacy with God and to the many other gifts that flow from being at one with Him. These have been spoken of as the preternatural gifts. Adam and Eve originally received the preternatural gifts of immortality, impassibility, freedom from concupiscence, ignorance, and sin, and lordship over the earth. If Adam had not sinned, we all would have inherited these preternatural gifts, together with the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace. The souls in heaven will recover these gifts at the end of time.
How were we to regain these gifts? How could sinful mankind redeem itself from the breach caused by disobedience? The creature turned its back on the Creator. Could such a being in and of itself heal this breach and cause all to be well again? Scripture tells us that God Himself desired to heal the wound of alienation but saw that man was always doing evil, so much so that in the sixth chapter of Genesis God is said to have regretted His creation of man. Then we see the saving of Noah and his family, for Noah found favor with God (cf Gn 6:8). Thus, our human lives were saved by the great flood. God made a covenant by the sign of the rainbow. Though mankind is inclined to evil from the beginning, God will not destroy him but He will time and again send word that the breach made with God will be healed by His very will and action.
God thus sent His messenger Gabriel to a Virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. Her name was Mary. She was saved from the moment of her conception in the womb of Ann from all sin. She was one in mind and heart with God. Immaculate is she. Mary becomes the sign for all of humanity: She is the one who accepts the gift of God promised through all the prophets, awaited for generations, the long expected of all mankind. The obedience of Mary brings the world its Savior. She is the new Eve. In her, Christ is conceived and comes into the world. He comes as light to dispel the darkness. He comes as the Word to silence the chaos and cacophony of man's stubborn will. He comes to make new the dwelling place of God among men. Man need not hide in his nakedness. He need not fear being discovered in his loneliness. Mary becomes the way of intimacy with God's presence on earth. She is the sign that God dwells among us. All this is because she agrees that the age-old plan of God would be fulfilled in her. She is in perfect union with her Son, because the Son lives in her, and she in her Son. Thus, she is for all peoples a sign that humility overcomes the disobedience of the proud.
We know that "... Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk 2:19). In this pondering, she knew that her "fiat" was to be all that would ever be for her Son, from His crib to His cross. It is her faith that called Him to bring joy to the newly weds and begin His public ministry, her faith that renewed His strength as He walked the way to Calvary, her faith that emboldened Him to have her become the Mother of all mankind. It is in her that the breach began to be healed and has God dwelling with us in the breeze of each day. Here is the one that has brought harmony and peace — for those who accept and believe. It is Mary's vocation!