Today’s feast is celebrated on March 25th, but since this year that day fell in Holy Week, which takes precedence; and since the following week was the Easter Octave, which again takes precedence, we had to wait till today, the first available day, to observe this feast.
We call it the Feast of the Annunciation because the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary her awesome vocation to become the Mother of God. But God needed her free “yes,” and the moment she gave it, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, became incarnate, took on flesh, was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in her virginal womb.
Just as the First Adam was formed from this earth, which was, in a sense, “virgin” soil since there was no man yet to till it, farm it nor pollute it in any way, the Second Adam also had to take His human flesh from a virginal womb, undefiled in any way.
We read in the Letter to the Hebrews (chapter 10, verse 5) : “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me.” God the Father was not perfectly pleased with the blood of bulls and goats (sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not), but He was perfectly pleased with the sacrifice of His sinless Son (but a body thou hast fitted to me). But the Son would not have had a body to sacrifice had not the Virgin Mary conceived Him in her womb. Thus, hers was also the body prepared for the Lord. Just as God created this world for the sake of Adam, and called it good, the Lord prepared a mother for the Second Adam, and she was immaculately good!
The problem all started when the first virgin, the First Eve, who as yet did not have relations with Adam, entered into conversation with the wrong person – the serpent. Today, that problem’s solution began when the second virgin, the New Eve, Mary, entered into conversation with God’s Angel.
And we see that the solution is taking place already; redemption has already started, for the unfortunate First Eve heard these words from God, “I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children…” but the New Eve, Blessed Mary, hears these words from God’s Angel, “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus.” How different the two sentences! One was punishment, the other liberation!
What was it like to be a person completely free of all sin, original and personal, from the moment of one’s conception? How would their personality and character be? We don’t meet people like that; we are all born in Original Sin and suffer its effects. But how was Mary, in her customs and habits, even before she received this joyful news of her divine election?
We know from the Church Fathers how she was; how Our Lady behaved and acted from birth. We get a picture from them how a person, conceived without sin, acts in this world. These Church Fathers aren’t making things up, either. They are writing in the early centuries of the Church. The tradition about Our Lady had been passed down from mouth to ear, from one generation to the next.
In terms of her relationship with God, we can simply say that Mary was a person of deep and strong prayer. Her every waking moment was a contemplation of the divine presence. Even in her sleep, says one of the Fathers, she dreamt of divine things. She constantly read the Scriptures, which would have been the Old Testament, and she meditated on them. We can see a glimpse of this when the Gospels tell us that Mary saw and heard the things Jesus said and did, and “kept them in her heart.” She preferred to stay in the home, where she prayed and worked in the presence of God. She was never less alone than when she was physically alone, because in those contemplative hours, she was accompanied by hosts of angels in the mystical presence of the Almighty.
In terms of her virtuous life, one can simply say that the chaos of uncontrolled passions, a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, of which we are all too familiar, had no place in her life. Free of original and personal sin, her passions were always in control under the rule of reason. She ate and slept only as necessary. She spoke only when useful, and then with all grace and pleasure. She was indeed “full of grace,” and this grace spilled over into her speech and movements. She never spoke too loud; her steps were measured and graceful. She was in complete composure, even when her heart was torn with grief at the sight of her Son’s passion, there was never anything unbecoming or undignified in her sorrow; no hysterics. She was a model of modesty and simplicity. One the Fathers mentions that, in his day, perhaps now long gone, there was preserved one of Our Lady’s veils, and it was simple, without adornment.
Concerning her relations with her fellow man, we can simply say she had perfect charity towards all. She never spoke about other people’s defects, but rather covered their shame. She was respectful and courteous to all, and treated even the humblest person in society with dignity. What little she had left over in the home, she gladly shared with the poor.
As one of the Fathers put it, we can simply say that Our Lady was a beautiful statue carved by God. But the difference between her and any of these beautiful statues here in the chapel is that these statues of wood could not say yes or no to God. But Mary had her free will, and she freely said yes to God. She allowed God to chip away and carve a masterpiece, unsurpassed in beauty. And why should Mary be so beautiful? Because God deserves only the best. So when He went about preparing a mother for the Son, He created a work of art.
Now God deserves only the best from us. We cannot give it on our own. But Mary can help us. Let us try to give our best every moment. Not an hour ago; not even ten minutes ago. Now. What are we doing now, and are we doing it as best we can. Let us ask Mary to help us to do that. She will win for us graces from her Son that will make up for what is lacking in our efforts, and bring those efforts of ours to greater fruition, all for the glory of God, the good of our neighbor and the salvation of our souls!
( We made our Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the end of Mass)