March 25, 2020

The Feast of the Annunciation


Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the story in the Gospel of Luke where the archangel Gabriel tells the young Mary that she is destined to bare a special child. I don't think I've ever marked the date before and only noticed it today by chance. Whether you take it literally or literarily, it is a charming story.

I love the sheer radicalism of the song this young (probably teenage) woman was said to have spontaneously sung on receiving the message:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel, * as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever. 
Putting down the mighty, exalting the humble, filling the hungry with good things...let me just say that works for me.

Then there's the amazingly brief but eloquent way she responds to this news:

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

I hadn't given much thought to Mary or this story until I walked the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2018, where you can't avoid seeing her image over and over. Whatever the Palestinian Jewish woman who gave birth to Jesus may have been like in history, I came to appreciate  the power of the archetype of Mary as the Theotokos (Greek for God-bearer).