Discover more from Missio Dei
The Incarnation and Calvary
March 25th Readings Reflection: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation. Exactly nine months before Christmas, today marks the day when “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14 DRB). The story is familiar to us all. The Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to St. Joseph. The angel greeted Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” These are the words with which we begin the “Hail Mary” prayer, and for this reason, the prayer is also known as the Angelic Salutation.
Mary in turn “pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” Mary’s pondering is something that we see more than once in the Gospels, such as when the shepherds visited the stable at the Nativity and after Mary and Joseph found young Jesus teaching the doctors in the Temple. In preparation for her role as the Mother of the Word Incarnate, Mary had spent her life studying and pondering the Word of God in the Scriptures. Her Magnificat is clear evidence of this, as there are many similarities between Mary’s canticle of praise at the Visitation and Old Testament canticles.
Above is a beautiful painting of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico that points to Mary’s love for the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. In this fresco, we see a book open on Mary’s lap. This symbolizes not only the Incarnate Word becoming flesh in Mary’s womb but also her intimate knowledge of the Scriptures. She knew the Messianic prophecies, such as the one in our first reading today: “Therefore the Lord [H]imself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with [C]hild, and bear a [S]on, and shall name [H]im Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us!’” In complete surrender and humility, Mary responded to the angel with her “fiat,” her “yes” by which the Word of God became incarnate in her womb: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Avid fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will remember that today, March 25, is the day on which Frodo destroyed the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom. This is because, according to patristic and medieval tradition, Christ died on the Cross on March 25, 33 AD. One thousand, nine hundred ninety years ago today, Jesus underwent His Passion and Death so that we might inherit eternal life. In the traditional liturgical calendar used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, today is also the feast of St. Dismas, the Good Thief to whom Jesus promised eternal life moments before He died on the Cross (see Lk 23:40-43).
When we think about the Annunciation and Christmas, it can be easy to forget the true purpose for Christ’s Incarnation: to give His life for the sins of the world. Tomorrow is Passion Sunday. Churches will cover the statues with violet cloths and the Gospels at each Mass will follow the increasing drama of Christ’s last year on earth leading up to His Passion. In the joy of today’s feast, may we also contemplate the sorrowful anniversary that this day marks and thereby unite ourselves more closely with Christ’s Passion, which we are about to commemorate liturgically in just a couple of weeks.
“Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause, God also hath exalted Him and hath given Him a name which is above all names” (cf. Phil 2:8-9, the Gradual for the Mass for Maundy Thursday in the Extraordinary Form).