Photo: Marian Archives
The Fiat, and Mary's Example of Spiritual Living
By Fr. Walter Dziordz, MIC (Dec 7, 2006)
When Gabriel the Archangel tells Our Lady at the Annunciation that by the "power of the Most High," she is to bear the Son of God and name Him Jesus, Mary surrenders herself completely to the Divine Plan in what is known as the Fiat (Lk 1:38). Fiat means quite simply, "yes."
Mary's "yes" leads to the birth of Christianity. Her agreement will touch people's hearts everywhere. Christians will ponder this encounter. Movies will be made! Other religions will even honor this famous conversation between the Mother of God and the archangel.
I would think that the best way to understand the Blessed Mother's consent to the Divine Plan of Redemption is to let her teach us how to understand it.
On a basic level, her "yes" serves as an invitation for us to also trust in God and to experience God in deeper ways. Her "yes" is an act of mercy not only because by giving birth to Christ she helped secure a means for our salvation, but also through her example, we learn to draw closer to God.
Before Mary came along, so many people must have felt distant from God. Maybe they wished to draw closer to Him but did not really know how. Perhaps they felt as if they weren't being "fed" spiritually. This is a common phrase these days, to be "fed." It's a good one, and right now I would say that by reflecting on the encounter of the Blessed Mother and the archangel, many people have been "fed" over the centuries and are still being fed by it today.
How so? Because when we hear the Word proclaimed, we can look to Mary and learn from her to keep it and ponder it in our hearts as she did (see Lk 2:19). Out of love for her Father, she welcomed the Word even when she didn't fully understand it.
After all, the Blessed Mother never claims in Scripture to know it all — that she has it all figured out and that any of her experiences with God can be understood right off the bat. Throughout the Gospels, she continually "ponders all these things in her heart." She sits on them. She wonders about it all, whatever "it" is in terms of her encounter with God.
Her legacy to us is multi-layered. She gives us her experiences with salvation history, along with her method of processing these experiences. That is to say, she pondered the Word in her heart, so that like a seed it would bear fruit in due time (see Mk 4:20).
As our own Mother, she is teaching us how to live as spiritual adults, in the same way our own earthly mothers would teach us how to live as future earthly adults. The stories of her life have been repeated continually over the centuries precisely so that we can strive to live virtuously to ponder the mysteries of faith in our own hearts.
The Blessed Mother is leaving us an example of how to walk the life of the spirit. She is our model, par excellence, of love, trust, and service. She was the first to believe and the first to be redeemed as the preeminent member of the Church.
And, she teaches us to be thankful to God, even when we don't always understand His ways. With Mary, that is evidenced by the fact that soon after she says "yes," she visits her cousin Elizabeth and proclaims what we know now as the "Magnificat," a wonderful prayer of thanks to God for the wonderful things that He has done for her, which include, most of all, the impending birth to our Savior. Yes, there is some understanding on her part already that is both real and deep. But she is still stepping forward to an unknown future out of trust in God.
Trust, of course, is the very foundation of the message of Divine Mercy. The more we trust in Him, the more He pours His graces out for us. Yet, how many of us truly trust with all our hearts? I see many people who tend to honor some aspect of Church teachings while ignoring others that they don't completely comprehend. For example, the Church teaches us to confess both sins of commission (what we did that was sinful) and sins of omission (the good things we could have done but didn't). Isn't it true that most of us tend to only admit to the former?
As for Mary's Fiat, we honor this particular experience of hers, listen to priests' sermons on it, watch this or that TV show or movie, and so on. How many of us take the time to so realize the importance of this occasion that we sit down someplace and ponder it in our own hearts, as Mary did — and often? I believe that by embracing the whole of Church teachings we find true understanding, peace, and the joy of the Christian message. And this is mercy — to open our hands and to receive all of the good gifts that the Lord offers to us.
The Fiat? We know what we already know about it. What we still need to come to terms with, however, is that it is a mystery. But it's not the kind of mystery that pushes us away (as in "who can comprehend a mystery?"). It's a Sacred Mystery that is calling out for us all the time, but especially now on Dec. 8, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, indeed throughout the whole of Advent, culminating on Christmas Day.
All of our liturgical seasons exist for a reason. These "days" are living events. In addition to "celebrating" them, we are called to ponder them, to allow them to take root. We are called to move more deeply into that truth where Mary and the saints live all the time, waiting for us to join them.