The text of a homily, based on Luke 1.26-38 (observing the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25), preached at the Lenten Quiet Day of the St. Angela’s Chapter of the Daughters of the King held at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Fortuitously auspicious it is that we, during National Women’s History Month and standing in the illumining sight of yesterday’s annual Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary, gather for this Lenten Quiet Day of the Daughters of the King.
Continually, over many years, I have reflected on this story of the Annunciation. And, more and more, I am led to consider our life’s stories. For I behold in Mary a model for us of how to face the many sorts of announcements that come to us. And, in this, I am reminded of some of the personal stories I have heard in over forty years of pastoral ministry:
An executor of an estate announces that you, hitherto unaware, are the beneficiary of the generous bequest of a loved one. An Internal Revenue Service agent announces you are the subject of an audit…
An employer announces that you have been promoted with increased responsibility and salary or you have been transferred or discharged…
A spouse or partner arrives home announcing a new job opportunity requiring a reconfiguration of family finances or a geographical move…
A spouse, partner, or long-lived friend announces a change in your relationship – deeper connectedness or greater distance…
A therapist announces the next step in your hard-fought, long-sought journey toward wholeness…
A physician announces that your medical condition or that of a loved one has improved or has worsened…
A friend or family member announces a birth or a death.
Each of these annunciation-experiences, desired or undesired, raises the specter of the unfamiliar, the uncertain; making it hard to know what to do. Mary, as a model for us, shows us how to be in the moment, listening, waiting for a clarifying revelation.
Gabriel appears. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Mary, doubtless, I think, is familiar with the lore of her people Israel about how God speaks through angelic messengers. However, she has heard no such word. Now, that she has, she is perplexed. Confused. Confounded. Cornered; not knowing which way to turn.
“Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Mary would conceive and bear a son, Jesus, who would reign on the throne of David in an everlasting kingdom. For an oppressed people in an occupied land overrun by the Roman Empire, this is a thrilling word of hope; fulfilling an age-old prophecy of liberation.
But Mary is a virgin. Thus, Gabriel’s announcement abounds with logical and biological impossibilities. “How can this be?”
Gabriel answers assuringly, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Then offers an anticipatory sign; a revelation concerning Elizabeth, who “also conceived…(although she) was said to be barren.” Then testifies to the truth at the heart of this (or any heavenly) annunciation: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
“Here I am…let it be with me according to your word.” Mary’s assent is no docile denial of her own will in the face of divine fiat. Hers is the “yes” of faith. Her conscious acceptance of a new thing. Literally, a new creation. And with it, a new meaning of and for her life.
The Annunciation. A story of the announcement of the coming of salvation within human history. A story about Mary and her embrace, indeed, her embodiment of that divine Word.
Many are the announcements that come to us. May we be as Mary. Being present in the moment. Listening. Waiting for a clarifying revelation. For even, perhaps especially in the most unlikely, undesirable circumstances, we never can know when an angel may appear calling to us, “Greetings, favored one!” Calling us to bear the life of Jesus in the wombs of our souls. Calling us, through our response, to bring the life of Jesus into the world.
© 2022 PRA
Illustration: The Annunciation (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
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 The Daughters of the King, founded in 1885, is a religious order devoted to prayer, service, and evangelism for women of the Episcopal Church, churches in communion with it, or churches in the historic episcopate; membership currently includes women in the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA), and Roman Catholic churches.