Although I am decidedly not a fan of “Christmas in July” – due to the fact that it tends to have almost nothing to do with Christ – I am most definitely a fan of “Christmas in March,” which I think many of us could benefit from celebrating a bit more! Yes, today marks exactly nine months to Christmas! Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation. Today, it recalls Mary’s fiat, her “yes” that changed the world!
There is a beautiful homily from St. Bernard of Clairvaux that describes the whole world anxiously awaiting Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel: “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son … The angel awaits an answer … We too are waiting … The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. … In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life. … This is what the whole earth waits for… Answer quickly, O Virgin. … Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. … Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.”
Mary’s response to Gabriel is one of the most beautiful prayers ever uttered, one of the shortest, and yet one of the most profound: “Let it be done.” It contains the essence of discipleship, the nucleus of the spiritual life and the heart of what our relationship with God should resemble. It stands in direct opposition to the devil’s tragic opposition: “I will not serve.” What a paradox that she who freely chose to serve the Lord is truly free, whereas Satan became enslaved precisely through his absolute unwillingness to be a servant. In God’s design, freely choosing to be a servant of the Lord leads to ultimate joy and authentic self-realization, whereas its rejection leads to senseless misery and self-destruction. How could it not be so? God alone is the absolute source of our life, happiness, purpose and peace. Anytime we turn away from Him, we ultimately turn away all that He is and all that He gives us.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Annunciation and the Incarnation! Perhaps we would do better to keep these mysteries before our eyes every day – not merely in December and March. Why not three times a day?
This is precisely what the Church proposes in the Angelus (Latin for “angel”, which is the first word of the prayer in Latin). The short prayer is traditionally recited at 6 a.m., Noon, and 6 p.m. Praying it at three different moments is a great way to help us remember to lift our hearts to God throughout the day. At the Catholic Center, the tradition of praying the Noon Angelus began a little over a year ago. As we celebrate the Annunciation, I encourage each of you – if you don’t do so already – to begin a new tradition: pray the Angelus. If you are able, consider praying it as a family or in community with others. The prayer:
V/. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R/. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
V/. Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R/. Be it done unto me according to your Word.
V/. And the Word was made flesh,
R/. And dwelt among us.
V/. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R/. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.