MEDITATION AS A PREPARATION FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE B.V.M., April 4, 2005

Mary

by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

The great 12th century Doctor of Marian Mediation, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), understood the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a marriage between divinity and humanity. This is a beautiful way of understanding the love that God has for His people. The marriage metaphor was a very prominent way that the Old Testament described the love that God had for His people, and since Jesus came to fulfill all the elements of the old covenant, it is only natural that St. Bernard understood the event of the Annunciation as the consummation of the espousals between God and humanity.

In describing this spiritual marriage, St. Bernard noted that the angel Gabriel served as the angelic 'best man' who announces to Mary that she is to conceive the Son of God within her womb. Her womb is holy. She had been prepared for this moment from her conception, a conception that was fully graced, blessing her with sinlessness and absolute purity.

Within the Christian tradition, especially in the Medieval period, artists often depicted St. Gabriel humbling himself to the ground in homage and veneration before the all-holy Immaculate One. In a certain sense, St. Gabriel comes with a message from God that, when put in marital categories, could be rendered something like the following: "Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with thee! Do you take God to be thine and to conceive His eternal Son in your most chaste womb?" Mary is, of course, completely available for the purposes of God. Having inquired into how this could be since she did not know man (a phrase which saints, mystics, Doctors of the Church, and Popes have all interpreted to mean that she had previously made a vow of virginity) Mary readily agreed to allow her womb to become the bridal chamber for the marriage between divinity and humanity.

St. Bernard preached so eloquently about the Solemnity of the Annunciation that he presents the Annunciation scene within a cosmic context. Since the Eternal Son is becoming Incarnate within the womb of Mary for us the Marian Doctor depicts all creation waiting in great anticipation for Mary to say her fiat. That fiat will change the course of human history and place hope back into the hearts of men. Mary's fiat is like a woman's response to an offer of marriage; it is like saying "I do". Therefore, as Mary ponders on the meaning of the angelic salutation and invitation, St. Bernard notes that all of creation stopped, turned to the Immaculate One and begged her to respond to God on behalf of all creation with a bridal "Yes". And she did!

Contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation through the event of the Annunciation gives us a deeper awareness of just how much God loves us. For the love of mankind, God has lowered Himself and taken on human nature. The body that He fashions for Himself from the chaste womb of the Virgin Mary will be the same body that is given as Eucharist and nailed to the Cross for the life of the world. And all of this is possible because Mary said "Yes" to God.