the annunciation – saying yes and living it

annunciation - fra angelico
annunciation – fra angelico

March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. It is a day to look to Mary and ponder her Yes to God. And, what a Yes it was. Pregnancy and birth is seldom easy. An “unexplained” pregnancy for an unmarried girl carried the death sentence of stoning. Mary felt fear yet allowed her fears to be calmed by God’s promise. She did not fully comprehend, but who could? All she had at her disposal was her faith. If she was saying Yes to God, then certainly all would be well.

We often image Mary as the gentle hand-maiden meekly acquiesing to God’s will. Yet, her Yes did not come from cowering fear or blind obedience. She questioned and discerned and only then freely agreed to God’s will. This is what makes her blessed. God could have used her without her consent, but then she would have simply been a human vessel. Instead, she fully cooperated with God and became an active agent in God’s plan.

It takes courage to say Yes to the unknown. It takes even greater courage to reaffirm that same Yes when the unknowns are replaced with difficult or unexpected realities. Our Yes’s are easily forgotten in the face of suffering. The certainty of dreams and visions of goodness and glory vanish quickly when we struggle to seek God’s hand in the midst of darkness and evil.

Mary’s Yes led her to an uncomfortable birth far from home. She faced the hardships and fears of a refugee in Egypt. She felt the gut-wrenching trauma of every parent when they think their child is lost. Mary did not fully understand her son’s ministry and must have feared for his safety. How could she understand the horrors of his death?She said Yes at the annunciation and she continued to say Yes throughout her life.

In these times of Yes’s too easily retracted, of commitments too easily broken, Mary is a model of faith for us all.




feast of the immaculate conception and two year blogging anniversary!

The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception - El Greco, 1610
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception – El Greco, 1610

WordPress just sent a small note acknowledging the two year anniversary of catholic dialogue. I began this blog on December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Last year, I wrote a blog post reflecting on this feast.

And, here is a link to my very first blog post. Oh, how I remember the nervousness of that first post. I remember it so well because the nervousness is still there. I still worry if anyone will read what I write. I worry about who will read what I write! In those early months, I remained anonymous. I finally revealed who I was on June 30, 2011.

This blog opened doors to a regular column in the Prairie Messenger, and an invitation to join the NCR Today team of bloggers. Writing for two of my favorite Catholic publications gave me more reason for nervousness. Becoming part of a writing community of so many women and men whom I admire so much, is both an awesome honor and a terrifying task. What can I add? What can I say, that hasn’t already been said…and said so well?

The respectful and thoughtful dialogue on this blog, the community of kindred spirits, and the kind words of affirmation provide the needed energy and incentive. To all who have stopped by, whether your visits are one-time or regular, THANK YOU!

May she, whom we celebrate this day, be our model and guide. Like Mary, may we ponder deeply, reach out generously, act justly, and be ever ready to respond with a faith-filled YES to our God.

the annunciation and the angelus

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the gospel story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). The encounter between the Angel Gabriel and Mary is one of the most familiar scenes in Christian art. The picture above is a wood-inlaid beauty from India, given to us by a Marianist Brother and friend. It hangs by our front door as a gentle reminder of Mary`s role in salvation, and her presence in our lives.

The Catholic prayer, The Angelus, is grounded in the Annunciation story. Traditionally, it was prayed three times a day; at 6:00 am, noon and 6:00pm. In monasteries and villages, bells would summon all to pause in their work to pray.

"The Angelus," by Jean-Francois Millet, 1857 Louvre, Paris

As a child, I loved the back and forth rhythm of this prayer. The words from the gospel and the Hail Mary were simple, familiar and comforting.  But, I always stumbled on the closing prayer. If the truth be known, I still do to this day. (Mea culpa!) Interestingly, the New Roman Missal is re-introducing this closing prayer into the `Collect` or Opening Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It will be a comforting memory for many who grew up with the Angelus. This simple mind still prefers the simplicity of the gospel words.

Here is the traditional version of  The Angelus…

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen. 

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . . 

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us. 

Hail Mary . . . 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy 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.