Friday, March 24, 2006

March 25: THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Tomorrow, Saturday (nine months to the day before Christmas), the Church listens to the Annunication of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary said Yes to God's desire to create within her the body of the Messiah Jesus, and today we celebrate Mary's Yes, asking the Holy Spirit to give us the same Lord Jesus. Today many of your Christian brothers and sisters are listening to the story as Luke unfolds it in the first chapter of his Gospel:

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, favoured 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 favour 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 for ever, 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.


It is the wide-spread custom of many Christians who do "Evening Prayer" ("Vespers") to sing "The Magnificat," the song Luke ascribes to Mary when she later visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. In "The Magnificat," Mary praises the Lord for his mercy and goodness, saying, "For He that is mighty hath done great things for me, and Holy is His Name" (1:49).

When four centuries ago Luther proclaimed the Good News of the Annunciation; here's what he said:

The "great things" are nothing less than that she became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed upon her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among whom she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in Heaven, and such a child. She herself is unable to find a name for this work, it is too exceedingly great; all she can do is break out in the fervent cry: "They are great things," impossible to describe or define. Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her or to her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees, or grass in the fields, or stars in the sky, or sand by the sea. It needs to be pondered in the heart, what it means to be the Mother of God. (Luther's Works, Vol. 21, p. 326, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Concordia Publishing House, 1956.)

Perhaps with Christians throughout the world, you too may say this prayer:

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord; that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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