instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Happy Annunciation Day!

I was thinking this morning that it would be nice if the Annunciation were a Really Big Deal in the Church, up there with Christmas and Easter. For one thing, it would be good theology, since the Annunciation is held to be the actual moment (or at least close to it) in which God became man. For another thing, it would be good apologetics, a way of showing that Catholics really do believe that something precious comes to be at conception.

But I don't have much say on the liturgical calendar, which has had an organic growth from the earliest days of worshipping at sunrise on Sunday after observing the Sabbath the day before. Christmas has been the Feast of the Incarnation as long as there's been a need for such a feast, and so it shall remain.

It occurs to me, too, that observing the Annunciation as a Solemnity without obligation to attend Mass is in keeping with the character of the event it commemorates. It was a private moment, an intimate exchange between heaven and a single human heart, that only gradually is made known to others. The Nativity is the time when this private event literally bears public fruit, when the angels sing to men and men to each other. But today we call to mind those first delicate moments, when God is made man yet not man fully made, and with the patience and humility of every mother Mary begins the months-long process of letting her child be formed within her.

There's a nice reflection on-line on what the Feast of the Annunciation means to a convent of cloistered Dominican nuns, and to us all:
The Eternal Father invited Mary to make a home for God in her body. Without a doubt she had already made a home for Him in her soul. Today on this great feast you and I are once again invited to make a home for God in the deepest center of our being. Our Yes to the Lord's invitation is not to an idea or a project but to the three-Personed God of Love....

The feast of the Annunciation reminds us that only when our surrender to God becomes receptivity patterned on Our Lady's Yes can our hearts truly become a home for the Word of God to dwell in. This feast is appropriately celebrated during Lent because without fail such surrender will inevitably lead to the Cross, in whatever form Christ wishes for us. Often for us it is little things: weakness in our personalities that we can't seem to overcome; physical sickness or limitations; anxieties over those we love or the long days of darkness in prayer. Jesus, who loves each of us as His spouse, wants us to give Him even these things. Our "grandfather" Saint Augustine exhorts us to this total self-giving so that we will be one with Him on the Cross: "Let Him be placed in complete possession of your heart, who for you was placed upon the Cross."
[Our "grandfather" Saint Augustine: Dominican friars and nuns observe (after a fashion) the Rule of St. Augustine, who is therefore regarded as something of a "pre-founder" or "grandfather," with St. Dominic of course the founder and father.]