Today, we celebrate the Annunciation of the Divine Plan of God (the salvation of mankind) through the angel Gabriel to the Sinless Woman (Kecharitomene). Today, exactly nine months to Christmas, we celebrate the great mystery of the INCARNATION of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity (Eternal Word of God) in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary who God recognized as “FULL OF GRACE”; a feast dating as far back as the Apostolic/Patristic times immediately after the date of Christmas was universalized throughout the Church.
In today’s Feast, we see a fulfilment of “God’s Plan” right from the time of the fall in the Garden of Eden – the Proto-Evangelium (first gospel) pronounced by God Himself in Genesis 3:15 – “I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel.” Apparently, the woman identified here must be the Blessed Virgin Mary (the new Eve) who brought forth her Seed, the Messiah, Jesus Christ (the new Adam), ‘who conquers over sin, satan and death through his one Sacrifice of Calvary’ (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). This text in Genesis also foreshadows the sign the Lord gives to King Ahaz through Isaiah as stated in the First Reading (cf. Is. 7:10-14,8:10), “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Literarily, the sociological context of that passage speaks of Ahaz, king of Jerusalem, who felt that his throne was about to crash due to the approach of enemy armies. His first reaction was to enter into a policy of human alliances. Isaiah, on the contrary, proposes to solve the problem by trusting in God, inviting the king to ask for a sign, reassuring him that the Davidic line would not be crushed since God has sworn an oath, there will always be an heir on the Davidic throne. To this effect, God will take a virgin and produce a son of David, and he will be called Immanuel, a name which means “God with us”. In other words, we’re not dependent exclusively upon human resources, political power, economic wealth and all of the rest. The prophecy of the coming of Christ, in the historic moment, is interpreted as a sign of God’s saving presence on behalf of his afflicted people, just like that of Genesis 3:15 in lieu of an afflicted human race covered in sin. Therefore, Isaiah’s words are prophecy of a future Saviour and a King through the Virgin. Our Christian tradition has always seen this prophetic announcement of the birth of Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
In today’s Gospel (cf. Luke 1:26-38), we see the fulfilment of both the prophecy made in Gen. 3:15 and that of Isaiah 7:14. Here, the angel Gabriel makes clear the sign foretold in Isaiah (the First Reading), that the Son (Immanuel) that would be born will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end.’ It is pertinent to understand that the fulfilment of this prophecy was aided by a sinless Virgin, whom God (through the angel) addresses as “Kecharitomene” (Full of Grace). Thus, in today’s feast, we see the new Eve (the Blessed Virgin Mary), filled with God’s grace and outdoing what the old Eve was unable to do. Analogously, St. Irenaeus (who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the apostles) says that both Nazareth (where the Virgin Mary had the encounter with the angel) and Eden (where Eve the virgin had the encounter with the tempter) were both gardens, and as a matter of fact, Nazareth is a counterpart of Eden. This way, it could be understood that in these “gardens”, there was a visit by an angel of light and an angel of darkness, respectively. In both instances, it was the angel that has the first word. In the case of Eve, the question of the angel of darkness implies impatience and a solicitation to evil; on the other hand, the angel of light, in a holy composure and peacefulness approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve; and how respectfully he bows himself down before her, and addresses her by her divine name “Kecharitomene”: ‘Hail, “full of grace”! The Lord is with thee! For Eve, scarcely has the wicked angel finished speaking that Eve cast a longing look at the forbidden fruit: she was impatient to enjoy the independence it was to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand; she plucks the fruit; she eats it, and death takes possession of her: death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life; and death of the body, which being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror, and finally crumbles into dust. But turning our gaze from this sad spectacle, and fixing them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the angel’s explanation of the mystery; the will of heaven is made known to her, and how grand a honour it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God, and yet the treasure of her virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will, and says to the heavenly messenger: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.’ This way, the new Eve repaired the disobedience of the old Eve: for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her fiat, ‘be it done,’ than the eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, in the chaste womb of Mary, and there He begins His human life; a Virgin and Mother, the Mother of God.
Dear friends in Christ, never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which this day (Annunciation/Incarnation) befell satan. Thus, Eve conquers in Mary. Therefore, by the mystery of the annunciation, we celebrate the triumph over sin and satan by the “Yes” of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the divine plan of God. The “Yes” (I’m the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word) of the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to be a reflection of the “Here I am…” which Christ said before coming into the Word. In other words, in the Second Reading (cf. Hebrews 10:4-10), we heard the wonderful passage in which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets today’s Psalm [39(40):7-11] in the light of Christ’s Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God’”. Therefore, “before the mystery of these two “Here I am” statements, that is, the “Here I am” of the Son and the “Here I am” of the Mother, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration” (cf. Joseph Ratzinger).
Above all, dear friends, today’s feast helps us to see clearly how everything in the Church goes back to that mystery of Mary’s acceptance of the divine Word, by which, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Covenant between God and humanity was perfectly sealed. We too are called to a perfect response to God’s will in our lives. Celebrating this Solemnity in Lent should help us realize better that even in the midst of current suffering, pain, pestilence, disease, famine etc. facing our world today, we can still do God’s will by persisting firmly in faith and trust in God and being sensitive and charitable to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ, may we always present ourselves before God saying, “Here I am, I come to do your will”
May the Lord bless his words in our hearts, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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