Monday, January 13, 2014

Modern day Annunciation (Or, the 1st Joyful Mystery)

Imagine you're just sitting in your house, minding your own business. Maybe you're engaging in a mundane task like washing dishes, folding laundry or balancing your checkbook. You're a single girl, you've got the day off work & you're not expecting to see anyone for hours. Maybe you just sat down with a cup of coffee & its time to relax with a good book. You're calm & all is calm around you. You allow your ears to focus in on the birds outside. The sun is shining & a warm, gentle breeze passes through the screen, teasing through the curtains ever so slightly.

You raise the cup to your lips & savor the sweet, dark liquid. All of a sudden, there's a voice behind you: "Hi!" it says. You lose your grip & spill your coffee all over the table. Your heart is racing. You're afraid to turn around. No one should be here. Is the front door locked? Where's your phone?! You feel a little panicked. You don't recognize the voice. Slowly, your shift in your chair & look behind you. Its hard to see the figure outlined against the blinding light. "Hi!" the voice says again. Its a male voice. He doesn't sound threatening. What does he want? You lift your arm up to shield your eyes.

The voice calls you by name now, tells you you're highly favored & that the Lord is with you. What is this, some kind of joke? Did you finally win the mail order sweepstakes? Maybe some religious looney just escaped, looked you up in the phone book & you're his first victim. Great, you think. What a way to go. You try to remember that self defense acronym: Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin... The voice steps into view. You lower your arm. He's so... sparkly. And then you realize this is no man. Its an... an angel! No way, you think to yourself. Your face goes pale & you suddenly wish you could hide.

"Don't be afraid", says the angel. He tells you again that you've found favor with God. Were you looking for favor?  You don't remember asking for anything specific, except maybe that one thing... Before you can engage your internal dialogue further, the angel continues, "You're going to have a baby & name it Jesus". "Whoa, hold on now", you say, "I'm single & I believe that love waits, you know... I've never even been with a guy in that way. How am I supposed to get pregnant?!" Your mind is spinning. The angel looks you in the eye & tells you the Holy Spirit will "overshadow you" (He's gonna what?!) & the child conceived in your womb will be holy. "Wait, like HOLY holy?" you ask. The angel continues, "He will be the Son of God".

The moments following cover you like heavy molasses. Why you? When will all this happen? What will life look like if you say yes? Can you say no? But you find that mere seconds have passed when you suddenly utter the words that  surprise even you: "Ok. Let's do this".

Your "ok" corresponds to Mary's "Yes". Did she say yes because she was scared? Did she say yes because she wanted fame? Or did she say yes because something within her told her that God had given her this purpose in life? Did she feel worthy? Did she feel excited? Humbled? The more I think about it,  I can't help but imagine her fiat involved more resignation than enthusiasm. After all, who was brave enough to say no to God? And who was brave enough to dare think they could take care of a child on their own back in that day, let alone the Son of the living God?! What would Joseph think? Surely he would be outraged & leave her. They were betrothed at the time, but he could've called the whole thing off. In fact, he wanted to when he heard the news. We don't read anything about what Mary must have felt or what was going on in her head during this encounter or after. We only read that once she consented, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. She conceived in her womb the Son of God, who she would name Jesus. We also read that Joseph, while notably disappointed, was quickly reassured by the very same angel that all this was of God.

And the fruit of this 1st Joyful mystery?  Humility.

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