The Feast of the Annunciation: What “Fiat” Means for Us
Today, March 25 (exactly nine months before Christmas), our liturgical calendar celebrates the Annunciation, the day an angel visited Mary and Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus. Annunciation literally means to announce. We celebrate this day not only for its significance all those years ago, but also to renew (make present all over again) its impact today. In this reflection let’s take a moment to review what happened and then reflect on what it means.
The Event of the Annunciation
Let us begin by examining the events of that day by as described in the Gospel of Luke.
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,” Luke 1:26-38.
The Significance of the Annunciation for Us
To many of us, this story from the Gospel of Luke is very familiar. But have we stopped to ponder its meaning and the effects Mary’s faithful fiat (submission to God) has on our lives? Many times, I simply think of Mary saying yes to God in this one particular moment. While this one “yes” was very self-sacrificing, I tend to forget she also had duties like us. She continued to live out her faith each and every day “in the simplicity of the thousand daily tasks and worries of every mother, such as providing food, clothing, caring for the house.... It was precisely Our Lady’s normal life which served as the basis for the unique relationship and profound dialogue which unfolded between her and God, between her and her Son,” reminds Pope Francis during his General Audience, October 23, 2013. Her uncountable yeses each and every day ultimately prepared her for the pain and suffering of watching her son brutally die a criminal’s death on a cross.
While we might not be given signs such as an aged relative’s pregnancy to confirm an announcement by an angel, we are no less called to say “yes” to God’s callings in our lives so we can grow in holiness.
On this Feast of the Annunciation, we should ponder what God is calling us to say “yes” to. How is God calling you to live out your faith in your daily life? Is He asking you to say yes to doing the tasks that seem mundane, like folding laundry, mowing the yard, and cooking dinner with cheerfulness? Is He calling you to say yes to mental prayer for ten minutes each day? Or, is He calling you to say yes to giving up your latte each week so you can give alms to the poor? Just like Mary, these little “yeses” can help us grow in holiness and hopefully lead us to heaven.
Our Fiat - Let it Be Done
Growing in the ability to say yes also allows us to follow in the footsteps of Mary, who following her “yes” to God, was able to give voice to the faithfulness of God in her famous, beautiful Magnificat:
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever (Luke 1:46-55).
You see Mary’s words can become our words. The Encarta dictionary defines the term magnify as to increase the apparent size of something and to give praise to God. Truly, Mary’s first words, “my soul magnifies the Lord” do both. We also are entrusted with this ability. The names and specific deeds may change, but God’s faithfulness is magnified (made apparent in a larger way) whenever we say yes.Pope Francis reiterated this when he said, “The Magnificat… is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history,” Homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, 2013.
“It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble.” The unknown men and women, mums and dads Pope Francis refers to is us.
So this feast of the Annunciation, “We can ask ourselves a question: do we allow ourselves to be illumined by the faith of Mary, who is our Mother?” questions Pope Francis, General Audience, October 23, 2013. “Or do we think of her as distant, as someone too different from us? In moments of difficulty, of trial, of darkness, do we look to her as a model of trust in God who always and only desires our good? Let's think about this: perhaps it will do us good to rediscover Mary as the model and figure of the Church in this faith that she possessed!”