One can get lost in researching Catholic doctrine on Mary and the feast of the Annunciation. We only need to look to interpretations of this moment in fine art and music to appreciate its influence on our tradition and humanity. In this time of fear and isolation, I am reflecting on this feast from the place of my heart and from what has impacted me in reading various spiritual writers.
This feast day, taking place nine months before Christmas, is core to everything we believe. It is the moment when God became one of us. The Incarnation is as Pope Francis describes: the moment when “the future began to begin.” Two aspects of this profound moment are worthy of reflection. Firstly, Mary is the ultimate model of solidarity. At this time of a global pandemic, we need the Blessed Mother’s solidarity and love. Secondly, the moment of the Annunciation and Mary’s “yes” to God’s call, is the fulfilment of God’s promise to God’s people. God chose to enter our reality through the most natural and humble events – pregnancy and childbirth. In this, Mary worked with God to bring about salvation. And she does so with humility, courage and love. Thus, the angel describes Mary as being “full of grace.” Mary is a source of Divine Revelation.
As a mother, I see Mary as maternal, consumed by love. Her heart and her faith are an inspiration to me. The solidarity of Mary as an expectant mother, at the foot of the cross, with the family at the wedding at Cana and with the people of El Salvador when facing a multinational company who would desecrate the environment of their community is the same. This simple Jewish woman of a small rural village is there for humanity. She is a model of strength, faith and courage and is here for us now.
My own faith life has progressed on a river of prayer, often the Hail Mary. When we ask for her prayers, “now and at the hour of our death,” we know that we have a champion amongst the communion of saints who loves us as a mother. Mary, Theotokos – the God Bearer – is concerned for our well-being. We pray to her now for comfort and healing. Johannes Baptist Metz said that the Annunciation points to“a future worth struggling for.”Mary models this for us in the Annunciation. We are struggling right now. May the love of the mother of God be a model to us to show solidarity and love in the midst of this struggle.
There is an image of Mary that I feel appropriate in this moment in time. Pope Francis was inspired by this image of Mary and brought it back to his people in Argentina. Mary Untier of Knots by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner is a painting that has inspired prayer and novenas. Pope Francis would meditate on this image while in prayer for his people. May this beautiful image inspire us to have faith during this global challenge. God is with us. God’s mother, our most powerful intercessor, is praying for us.
On this feast of the Annunciation, may we lean on Mary’s love for humanity and her solidarity with our suffering. May we also be comforted that there is always a future beyond the struggle.
–Jan Bentham is a Retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program.