She was but a young maiden of Nazareth when she was visited by an angel. Unlike our first mother, who spoke with an angel in the guise of a serpent, this angel appeared as a man, Gabriel. He said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
One would assume that such a visit from such a being would be quite unsettling. Realizing her fear, the heavenly visitor says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Our human rationale can only imagine that these words calmed her heart a bit, but then followed these: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.”
Have no fear?
Let’s be real!
The angel went on to sing the praises of this soon-to-be Son of hers. Mary was puzzled. She was a virgin; she had never been with a man. Again, more angelic consolation: “Have no fear. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, alas, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Imagine that: Don’t be afraid …
You’re pregnant …
and God’s the father.
The angel goes on to relay more astounding news: her relative, Elizabeth, an old woman who was barren, is also expecting a child. Women, young and old – unmarried or barren – are unexpectedly expecting? Let’s be real!
Then, contrary to our worldly wisdom, the visitor says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
What happened next changed the course of human destiny. The response of the faithful young virgin is the beginning of our salvation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” With these words, Mary, the virgin of Nazareth affects her salvation, yours, mine, and all mankind for all generations. Her obedience redefines reality. In being obedient to God, the New Eve breaks the curse of the Eve of old. In being obedient, she becomes the “Mother of God” – the Theotokos – the Mother of our salvation: the God-Man, Christ.
It was not easy. The angel said that with God nothing is impossible. He did not say, “Everything will be easy and everyone shall be perpetually happy.” He didn’t ask her if the child was a wanted child. He didn’t ask her how she was going to take care of her son. I mean, God knew she was faithful! Yet though he promised no happiness, it was good news.
Can this be real? Do not be fooled by the enemy. The first woman, Eve, was misled, as was Adam, by the lies of an angel in the guise of a serpent. They were in Paradise and sought a better life (notice the irony, seeking a better life while in Paradise) by eating the forbidden fruit. Better, like the fruit, turned bitter.
We, too, often find ourselves seeking to be like gods in eating of the tasty and deadly fruit of the enemy. This road, promising happiness and life, leads to bitterness and death. Who is this enemy? The tempting lies of Satan, sin and death are the real enemy. Yet, our Lord God is salvation and life. God is real. Angels are real. Temptation is real. Mary is real. If we believe and are obedient, salvation is real. It is realized by faith. Life eternal is real, for with God nothing will be impossible.
Let’s be real!
As the people of God, the Body of Christ – the Church – our salvation begins with Mary. Salvation for all men was wrought by the words of an obedient young girl 2,000 years ago. She is our example. She is the first Christian. She is the Mother of God. Our salvation begins with Mary’s obedience to Real Life in the Annunciation. She conceived in her womb the Lord Jesus. She conceived in her womb the Body of Christ, the Church. She conceived in her womb that against which the gates of Hell shall never prevail. In her womb Mary conceived. In reality, she conceived our Salvation.
Forasmuch as thou art a well-spring of tenderness, O Theotokos, make us worthy of compassion; Look upon a sinful people; manifest thy power as ever, for hoping on thee we cry aloud unto thee: Hail! As once did Gabriel, Chief Captain of the Bodiless Powers.
It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, who art ever blessed and all-blameless, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, thou who without stain barest God the Word, and art truly Theotokos, we magnify thee.
The Feast of the Conception of our Salvation – the Annunciation – is celebrated nine months before Christmas, March 25th.