Feast of the Annunciation
by Fr. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem., Prior
Ecce concípies in utero et páries fílium…
Innumerable are the works of sacred art—icons, paintings, and frescoes—that depict this mysterious moment, when the archangel announced that the Blessed Virgin would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. And in so many of these artworks, he finds her at prayer, with a scroll open before her, meditating on the very words of Scripture he tells her she will fulfill.
María autem conservábat ómnia verba hæc, cónferens in corde suo.
When she tests the spirit to prove he is from God, and he acquits himself by respecting her vow of virginity, she acquiesces and says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word.” Adam Scot, sometime abbot of Dryburgh, commenting on this reply, said, “The first phrase is one who humbles herself, the second is of one who obeys.”
I once read in the constitutions of a congregation of diocesan rite, “The essential outward expression of interior humility is prompt obedience.” Speaking further of the humility of the Mother of God, Adam says, “I want to say how great your humility is, but I do not have the ability to do it. I ponder, O singular Virgin, who you are, and I ponder what you state yourself to be, and I am defeated by both; thus I am unable to admire your humility enough, just as I cannot admire your worth enough.”
Fr. Sebastian reminded us on Sunday that humility draws the Lord to us; no need to go to Him. It relieves us of the burden of loving ourselves—because He will do it for us—so that we can focus all we are on loving Him. True humility, then, opens our heart to the deepest love, and from love springs obedience, and through love all secrets are ascertained.
The connection is clear, then, between the kneeling Virgin, pondering the text of Isaiah, and the angel who kneels before her as a sign of God’s adoring love of her, and the conception of the Son of God in the flesh. Her humility submitted the Seat of Wisdom in love to the authority and mystery of Sacred Scripture. And this drew God to her as to His rightful home. She conceived the Word in faith before she conceived him in her flesh; she was fruitful in her heart before she was in her womb.
Just as the Mother of God had the deepest humility and so was deemed worthy to have the supreme ineffable manner of conceiving the eternal Word, so we who feebly ponder the Word of God in our imperfect humility still conceive Christ in the souls of others through our faith shared with them. So great is the generosity of God that our weak faith and distracted meditations yet behold the fields already white for the harvest of Christ.
So we would do well to follow Fr. Abbot’s advice at the beginning of this, our enforced retreat: Use this time wisely and humbly by spending more and better time with the Word of God at the feet of His Mother. It will yield loving obedience and obedient love, and Christ newly conceived in welcome hearts when someday soon we preach the Word of God once more.
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During this season of penance and mercy, the evil spirit, always envious of the human race, seeks to prevent us from profiting from God’s grace. His strategy is clever and manifold.
St. James admonishes the early Christians and us not to show partiality towards the rich and well-to-do over the poor amongst ourselves in the Church. He reminds us to fulfill the royal law according to the scriptures, Love your neighbor as yourself.
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