Mary had been consecrated to the Temple, as a child. Her ongoing prayer was that the Messiah would come in her lifetime and free the people she loved so much. She spent much of her time in the Temple; but since her father’s death, she spent a great deal of time caring for her aging mother, Anne. Mary prayed constantly, even while doing her chores at home. There was a saying: “What good can come out of Nazareth.” Nazareth, through the will of God would give us Mother Mary, Saint Joseph and Jesus.
It was late afternoon. March was filled with promise of new beginnings. Mary had a spring to her step, as she walked home from the well, from which she drew water each day. But somehow, this day felt different. Was she remembering the ancient prayer said at the Seder (the meal celebrating the Passover): “Why is this night different from any other night?” At the Seder, there was always an extra place set at the table in expectation of Elijah’s return. But, this night, the place set was beneath Mary’s heart, and it would be filled by the Messiah!
Let us try to envision how the events might have taken place. The sun went down, and dusk began to dim the sky; a chill crept into the air. Mary was kneeling in her home, lost in prayer. She began to wonder how it would be, when the Messiah arrived. We can see her praying, a cool breeze brushing past her. Was it the winds blowing off the sea, cooling the house? There was a tingling electricity in the air, a fluttering sound, like that of birds’ wings. She looked around. There was nothing. Suddenly a great calm came over her. The wind stopped. There was a hush, a stillness, as if time had stopped. A figure of a beautiful young man entered through the window. There was a brightness about him, as if he were translucent. He looked at her. His eyes were brilliant. At first, she was frightened; then a rush of warmth and peace came over her whole body. She couldn’t take her eyes from him.
The Angel said to her, “Hail, most favored one. The Lord is with you.”
She was startled by his words.
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with the Lord. You will conceive in your womb, and bear a Child, and you will call 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 David His father, and He will reign over the House of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.”
What was he talking about? How could she conceive and bear a child? She was a virgin. She wasn’t married! She was engaged to Joseph the carpenter, but they had vowed to live a celibate life when they became husband and wife. Yet while she wondered, she never doubted. She asked him with excitement and awe. It was the way a trusting child might ask her daddy how an impossible task would be accomplished.
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The Angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the Holy Child to be born will be called the Son of God”.
She gasped. It was as if she was almost afraid to breathe. She didn’t understand, at that moment, what the messenger meant by the Holy Spirit coming upon her. The key word in her mind, in her entire being, was “The Son of God”. Is this Angel speaking of the Messiah? Is he telling me I am to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God? Am I the one, I’ve been praying for, the one to be the vessel to bring salvation into the world? Is that what he’s saying? Mary knew that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. It was part of Holy Scripture. But, she never dared to think she would be the one. Her prayer had been that the Messiah would be born in her generation and she might serve the mother of the Messiah.
The Angel further affirmed the power of God. He added:
“And behold, your cousin Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; she is in her sixth month, and everyone thought she was barren. You see, with God, nothing is impossible.”
Mary silently prayed: “Oh, my Lord, it is You! Is this really possible? Would You give this honor to me? I’m not worthy.” But the words of the Angel pierced her senses, opening her heart and mind: “You see, with God, nothing is impossible.” She responded, in her heart: “I trust You, my Lord and my God. I know You would never hurt me. And I would give up my life for You.”
She looked up at the Angel before her. He was waiting for something, what? Was this messenger of God waiting for an answer from her? She looked at him, again. He was waiting for her yes! Tears streamed down her face. He looked at her with so much love. His gaze filled her with a profound warmth. She gave her answer:
“I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word.” And as the tears cascaded down her cheeks, she cried out in her heart, “Yes! I say Yes!”
Could she hear the choirs of Angels singing praises to the Lord, at these words of their future Queen? The Angel before her, whom we know to be Gabriel, looked at her with blinding joy in his eyes. A brilliant light filled the room, and surrounded her. She felt a surge of energy go through her. She looked up at the Angel. He looked at her. He smiled. It was done.
The Angel slowly disappeared, and the room became dark. The girl, now woman, sat in the darkness, her heart beating, her mind racing. She repeated silently, the words of the Angel. She was to be the Mother of God. She could feel His Presence inside her. It was true. Now she understood!
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