On the feast of the Annunciation, we find the original home of the noon Angelus prayer. This worldwide daily prayer commemorates the moment the young, betrothed Mary gave her “yes” and allowed Christ to enter the world as a baby.
While the house in which the Annunciation is believed to have occurred currently resides in Loreto, Italy, Nazareth is the crucial setting of Mary’s exchange with the angel Gabriel. Mary’s home in Nazareth, now more cave than house, was humble. It is likely the last place in which anyone would expect God to become flesh.
And yet it was in this small house that the greatest event in human history occurred. The origin of the Church, the redemption of creation, and perhaps more particularly, the words of the Angelus all come from the humble service of Mary, freely given to God in joy and hope.
Each piece of the story is entirely unexpected: an angel of God appears to a betrothed, societally unestablished young woman to ask if she would be the Mother of Jesus Christ. Surely Mary was thinking about so many things! How many of us would have the same courage to only ask one question, “how can this be?”
Gabriel explains to a curious Mary that “the power of the Most High will overshadow” her and she will conceive a son by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35). Her virginity would be left intact, and her creative power as a woman used for God and God alone. Truly miraculous circumstances that couldn’t be explained apart from God!
As a single young woman to whom miraculous events occurred, the Incarnation posed a difficult situation. Society was not friendly to unmarried women with children, and Mary would likely have endured ridicule from those around her. Yet she had faith God would be with her no matter what. Gabriel emphasizes this – “for nothing is impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37) – and even alludes to another annunciation from just six months prior: that of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah in the Temple.
Even with ample reason to say no, to stay comfortably obscure and live a normal human life, Mary gives her fiat. She freely, joyfully, confidently, and totally gives her consent for God to work in through her. We remember her bold trust and confidence in God daily with her words in the Angelus: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38).
As you pray the Angelus today, included below, I invite you to ponder its words. They contain faith, courage, and obedience that we can imitate in our own lives. Each time we say these words, we remember Mary’s faith in giving her “yes” to God – and the conclusion of the prayer is a request for that same faith in our own hearts.
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary…
Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word. Hail Mary…
(All bow.) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Hail Mary…
Pray for us, O Most Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. 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.
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