Image Courtesy of Catholic News Agency
By Anna Harvey
Amidst the solemn and contemplative season of Lent, this Sunday, March 25, marks a joyous celebration in the Church: the Feast of the Annunciation. Coming off of the heels of the Feast of St. Joseph, the Feast of the Annunciation could not be more appropriate.
As described in Luke 1:26-38, the Feast of the Annunciation celebrates Mary’s response to the Archangel Gabriel when he announces to her that God chose her to be the mother of His Son. Mary’s response is one that has been passed down throughout the ages as a perfect model of faith: “May it be done unto me according to thy word,” or, in Latin, “Fiat.”
Traditionally, the Feast of the Annunciation emerged as a celebration in the Church during the fourth and fifth centuries, shortly after the date for Christmas was universalized. Throughout the history of the Church, the celebration of this event has sparked many devotions to Mary, as seen through the words and wisdom of saints like St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montfort. Likewise, the Annunciation is likewise revered in other celebrations and prayers within the Church, such as the Angelus and the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Throughout the history of the Church, the Annunciation has served to encourage the faithful in personal devotion to Our Lady, as well as serve as a source of study for theologians.
Furthermore, while she is often depicted in art as a woman around the age of 30, today, Mary is now commonly believed to actually be around 14-15 years old at the time of the Annunciation, which makes her response all the more miraculous.
This begs the question for many Catholics: if Mary could say “yes” at the age of 15 to the most important mission of her life—becoming the Mother of God—how can we, the faithful, say “yes” to God in our lives?
At this point, the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Holy Spirit and free will comes into play. Since Mary was born without Original Sin, she was guided by God’s grace to orient her life completely to God. With this dynamic faith, Mary, through her own free will, likewise chose to commit herself to God’s will, and conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her “yes” to God and the Incarnation of Christ has prompted many theological discussions throughout the history of the Church, focusing on Christ’s human and divine Nature, as well as Mary herself. Several Doctors of the Church focused on these mysteries, including St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, as well as a Cappadocian father, St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Through the Church’s celebration of the mystery of the Annunciation, the faithful have come to grow in devotion to Our Lady and to contemplate her faith-filled and dynamic response to God. The Annunciation reveals how Mary is a perfect example of how Catholics ought to respond to God’s call in their lives.