Monday, April 8, 2013

The Annunciation - Mary's "Yes" to God

For many years, the logo used by the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham had embedded in it the words, "Say Yes to God." It was in every Walsingham Review, and turned up on everything else they published.

Today is the special day in the Church’s calendar (transferred this year from 25th March because of the clash with Passiontide) when we think of the coming of the angel to Mary and Mary’s “Yes” to God. It is sometimes a hard thing to say “Yes” to God. We are apprehensive, full of fear, and worried that stepping out in faith and obedience will have disastrous consequences, humanly speaking. Well, the bad news is that sometimes it does!  It can mean sacrifice, pain, misunderstanding, and cruel opposition from those closest to us, as Jesus himself predicted.

The Annunciation took place at a cruel and difficult time in Middle Eastern history, and St Luke’s Gospel says that Mary was “greatly troubled” at the angel’s greeting. But “the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary . . .’” Right throughout the Scriptures, often as a new epoch of salvation history is about to begin, there is a revelation from God, accompanied by the words “fear not” or “do not be afraid.”

Now, Mary is our hero. As Wordsworth put it, “Our sinful nature’s solitary boast.” She became the Mother of Jesus. She is our Sister in Christ. She is the Mother of all her Son’s people. We seek her intercession as we so often struggle in our response to God’s love. 

All that is as it should be. But the important thing is not to give into the temptation to see Mary as being APART from us and our experience of grace. The Gospel account goes out of its way to emphasise that the divine initiative that had been operating in her life - the fulness of grace she had been given - did not mean that she was free from having to exercise sometimes trembling faith in God’s promises as we do. She WAS “greatly troubled.” 

There has been nearly two thousand years of Christian meditation of the way that her “Yes” to God, began the great reversal of all that had gone wrong through the “No” uttered by Eve, the mother of all the living.  From this angle Mary is known as the “second Eve” or the “new Eve”, the mother of all who have been brought to life by the dying and rising of her Son.

It is my prayer that all readers of this blog will be moved to "Say yes to God" afresh, not just for ourselves, but so as to become - like Mary - channels of his healing love for others.

It is in connection with these thoughts that I share with you the amazing crayon and coloured pencil drawing at the top of this post. Originally drawn to illustrate a Christmas card, it is the work of Trappist Sister Grace Remington of the Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey. In 2005 Abbess Columba Guare of the same community wrote this moving poem to accompany the drawing. Mary addresses Eve with hope and gladness:

O Eve!
My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Life without end.

Well, that’s not all. the late Father Richard Neuhaus quoted the poem in an article, and it was seen by the composer Frank LaRocca who put it to music . . . one of the loveliest recent compositions I have heard in a long time. Click HERE to play it.


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