Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It is a great feast day which celebrates the salvific mystery of Our Lord taking on human flesh through Mary’s fiat, but also her profound role in the Kingdom of God. The Annunciation is the beginning of the fulfillment of all that God promised in the redemption of mankind.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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 called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Volumes have been written over the theological and spiritual dimensions of the Annunciation. Today we will examine three theological components that can be found in this passage of Luke. The first will be the obvious aspects of Mariology present which are directly tied to the second topic which will be a brief look at the Christology on display, and finally, the Ecclesiology which can be seen in Mary’s response to Saint Gabriel. We will examine these topics briefly.
A great deal about what the Church teaches in regards to Mary can be found within the words, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Other translations change the wording to “full of grace” or something similar, but the meaning is the same. In the next section of Luke Elizabeth refers to Mary as “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). Regardless of the translation of the Bible used, it is clear that Mary enjoys a special place in the order of creation and God’s plan. The Church defines Mary’s status as full of grace through the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At her conception, Mary already shared in the salvific and sanctifying grace of her Son. She is blessed because she was preserved from original sin and its effects for her entire life. She is the chosen one and the sign to the world of God’s desire for communion with all of mankind. At the Annunciation Mary is already full of God’s grace, which is why she is addressed in this manner. Mary has already been saved by her Son through the profound glories and grace given to her by the Holy Trinity.
The Annunciation is the announcement that Christ has come to his people and God will dwell among us. Mary is not only “full of grace” because of her Immaculate Conception, but also because she will bear the fullness of grace who is Jesus Christ in her womb. Mary is to be the Mother of God, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. In her fiat Mary agrees to submit and follow God’s mission and plan for humanity and that means giving herself entirely to her Son’s mission. Mary can only be understood in the light of Christ. By God’s election, she will give humanity to the Son of God so that his divine Person of the Son can be unite his divine nature to a human nature. The Annunciation is the announcement of the God-man entering into history for the salvation of his people.
Mary is the example to the Church as she [the Church] journeys towards her eschatological end. By her fiat at the Annunciation, Mary shows perfect faith in God and his mission. So too does the Church turn to her Savor, Jesus Christ, in complete faith and dependence on him. The Church looks to Mary for a deeper understanding of its role in the world and her response in the Annunciation is one of the Church’s starting points for reflection. Mary is the model for bringing sons and daughters to a new life in Christ and she is the “model and figure of the Church” (Redemptor Hominis, 44). Mary is the example of maternal love for the Church, “If the Church is the sign and instrument of intimate union with God, she is so by reason of her motherhood, because, receiving life from the Spirit, she ‘generates’ sons and daughters of the human race to a new life in Christ” (RM, 42). It is precisely through Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother that she becomes the mother of the Church. Her spiritual motherhood is transformed and she is united to her Son’s mission of bringing all peoples to the Father as adopted sons and daughters.
The Church is the Body of Christ, which means that Mary’s work and submission to the mission of her Son continues to the present day. Since the Church is where Christ’s work takes place in the world currently, she too aids in the mission of bringing all peoples into conformation with the Most Holy Trinity. Lumen Gentium states: “By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and function, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church.”
The Annunciation begins to reveal the salvific plan God has for his people in announcing the coming of the God-man. Mariology begins to take shape and dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception guided by tradition are understood through the fullness of Christ’s grace which dwells in Mary from her conception. God’s plan to become incarnate and take on human flesh, which will be united to his divinity, is demonstrated and a Christological aspect of Luke is better understood. Mary’s faith at the Annunciation and her obedience and love for God are the guiding principles for the Church’s mission. Mariology, Christology, and Ecclesiology are all intertwined through the actions of the Annunciation. As we celebrate this solemnity during the season of Easter, let us grow in a deeper understanding of Christ and His Mother, as we continue our own journey to communion with the Most Holy Trinity.