Friday, March 25, 2011

And The Word Became Flesh, as a Ransom for Many

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712
As we contemplate the Church's celebration today of the Feast of the Annunciation, our first thoughts might be that the timing of this celebration seems incongruent, even inappropriate, in the midst of the season of Lent. But to feast in the midst of our fasting, to be filled with joy while mourning, is to be reminded that the Holy One of God desired above all to dwell in the midst of sinful humankind, and that the Divine nature of Christ which Peter, James and John beheld on the Mount in His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36) was visible to their eyes because it was clothed in flesh, perfectly and purposefully united to a human nature. As Jesus explained to the three apostles after His transfiguration, the Son of Man could not rise again unless He first suffered and died.

Always in the midst of our suffering, God offers us hope. In the looming eclipse of the Cross, in its pending darkness, defeat and despair, He gives us the full radiant light of the sun in His transfigured countenance. At the Fall of humankind, in the midst of the inevitable curses our pride rained down upon us, God promises full redemption: nothing short of a crushing victory over sin and death (cf Genesis 3:15). Through the Law, the very thing that only served to remind us of our slavery to sin, and which no flesh could keep, He bestows pardon and grace through the One who came as "the Word made flesh" (cf John 1:14); as the only One who could fulfill the Law.

As the whole of Scripture shows us, when God makes a promise, that promise is fulfilled even before it is spoken. The joy which the Annunciation and Mary’s “yes” (Luke 1:26-38) brought to earth began first in heaven, with the Son’s “yes” to the Father, to enter into human history so as to accomplish His Will as the Lamb of God. Mary was spotlessly conceived and full of grace through the Son’s emptying of Himself; in His taking the form of a slave though He was Himself God (cf Phil 2:6-8). And when Jesus finally poured out His life for us on the Cross, there was no greater sorrow than that inflicted by the sword which pierced Mary’s sinless soul (cf Luke 2:35). She knew that the Savior of the world had come to die for us all, but she also knew that He was offering Himself first of all for her sake!

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

--The concluding prayer of The Angelus