by Rev. Canon Stewart Murray, Incumbent at St. Barnabas, Ottawa
published in ‘Crosstalk’, January, 2018
In the midst of our journey through Lent, the feast of the Annunciation comes on March 25. This feast, also called Lady Day, is when the Church calls the faithful to remember the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gabriel came to ‘announce’ the invitation from God to Mary to become the mother of Jesus. It is an important celebration which often gets ‘lost’ in Lent. I think that the feast of the Annunciation and the example of Mary need to be reclaimed as important elements in helping us to grow in our faith and spiritual life. From the earliest days of the Christian community, Mary’s experience of God has been seen as a model worthy of reflection and imitation. Indeed, in the history of the Anglican tradition, Mary has been and continues to be a source of inspiration and hope. What elements in the life of Mary can we find to help us in our own faith journey today?
The events of the Annunciation as found in the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 are a rich source of inspiration and themes for reflection. As so often is the case, the Gospel simply begins rather abruptly with the angel Gabriel appearing and speaking to Mary. Countless artists have attempted to capture this moment in time with the great winged angel hovering over the small figure of Mary. But let us not think that Mary was a passive player in this encounter. Mary, as any of us would be, was no doubt initially overwhelmed by the appearance of the angel with the greeting that she is highly favoured, that God is with her, and that she will have a son; indeed, the angel tells her not to be afraid. Mary, however, seems to have quickly overcome her initial fear and begins to question the angel about what he has told her. She does not simply accept what the angel tells her. Immediately we see that Mary, like us, is a free agent in the divine drama. God awaits her questions and her consent to what the angel has told her. Mary is an example of a lively faith and trust in God, a faith that expects to see and meet God in the midst of the everyday. Mary encounters the angel in the midst of her daily routine. How often do we ‘miss’ the presence of God in our daily round of activities? Each day is a fresh opportunity to see Christ in the lives of others and in our own hearts.
Mary is prepared to question and seek answers to the things that the angel has said to her. How often in our spiritual journey do we hesitate to voice our questions and doubts, and miss the opportunity to find the answers and assurances we seek? Sometimes we can hesitate because we do not want to appear foolish or as if we lack faith, but it is in bring our concerns to God that we can discover God’s love and mercy. We can discover that indeed, as the angel proclaims, “…with God nothing will be impossible”.
Mary, in freely giving her consent, brings Jesus into the world. She becomes to the Theotokos – the ‘God bearer’, the Mother of God. Like Mary, we share a similar vocation, to bring Jesus into the world, to give flesh to the words of the Gospel. Love, hope, and faith are given flesh in our lives and actions and in the work and mission of the parish to which we belong. God waits on our response to the invitation to new life in Him. He awaits our ‘yes’ to work with Him and His Church in response to the trouble and sorrow in our world.
What will your answer be?