The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin – Day of Fidelity
“The voice of my Beloved, behold He cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills” [Cant. 2:8].
The whole early life of the Blessed Virgin had been spent in the uninterrupted service of God. From the hour of her consecration in the temple she had no thought but of Him, and no wish but to do His will in all things. Her soul was enlightened to see God, and filled with the continual contemplation of His perfections. No human mind can imagine the perfection to which she had attained; but we know that no creature had ever received such graces, and that every grace was improved to her sanctification. In the temple, before the altar, assisting at the daily sacrifice, she prayed constantly for the redemption of Israel. She prayed for the coming of the Messiah. As she has since revealed to St. Elizabeth, she prayed that she might live to see the mother of the Christ, and the she might serve her with her own hands, and praise her with her lips, and minister to her necessities. She knew by the prophets that the day of redemption was drawing nigh, and she was so taken into the counsels of God, that she could see His purposes ripening every day. As the hour of the Incarnation approached, the Divine Providence directed that she should be espoused to St. Joseph. That holy and spotless Saint had been chosen for her protector, and she consented to the espousals, fully understanding that nothing should ever infringe upon the sovereign right of her celestial spouse. God’s will was her only rule, and St. Joseph was to her only an image of the Eternal Father, before whom every wish was bowed in obedience. It is almost a foretaste of Heaven to contemplate this life of Mary, and to think how she was glorifying God. And the Infinite Majesty was drawn by her very loveliness, and the Divine eyes looked away even from the rapt adoration of Seraphim and Cherubim, of all the angelic host, to rest upon His meek handmaiden, whose worship was more pleasing to Him than that of all the armies of His courts. So grew this “fair plane-tree by the waters, yielding a sweet smell like cinnamon, and stretching out her branches of honor and grace.” She was only fourteen years old, and in the perfect beauty of womanhood, when the fullness of time came, and that, which her humility has never dared to anticipate, was accomplished. God was coming not to take up His abode in her heart, for there long had He dwelt, but to become in very truth her child. All humble, all unconscious of her dignity, she knelt in the temple, praying for more and more perfect union with her Beloved, when at once all the light of sense seemed to depart, and the bright light of Heaven to come in upon her soul. The Archangel Gabriel knelt before her, and the pinions of unseen angels covered her, and the celestial messenger spoke his “Ave Maria.” “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.” Then he revealed to her the mystery of the Incarnation, and how she had found favor with God, and had been chosen of all the daughters of earth to become the mother of the Most High. There was one moment of fear and suspense, until she was assured that neither her sacred vow of virginity should be violated nor her immaculate purity sullied. Then, meekly and humbly, she consented to this new and incomprehensible grace, with all its trials and with all its glories. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” Then the Holy Ghost came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Who can describe the joy of this blissful moment, far surpassing all the consolations of the saints? A more than angelic ecstasy overwhelmed all the powers of soul and body, and her God, her Beloved, came leaping upon the celestial mountains, skipping over the hills of earth, and in an instant He was not only her Creator – He was her child. Before her enraptured vision was the sight of the eternal Trinity, and in her soul that grace of perfect union which no tongue can describe. Well might she say, “I languish with love. His left hand is under my head, and His right hand shall embrace me” [Cant. 2:5-6]. Alas, our faith is feeble, and our intellect staggers, and we can never measure the length and breadth and depth and height of this great mystery. We cannot measure the condescension of the Divine Majesty – we cannot measure the infinite elevation of Mary. If it is a joy to possess God as He reveals Himself to the elect; if it is bliss to know Him as the angelic spirits whom He ravishes with a torrent of untold delight, which must have been Mary’s joy at this awful moment? She found, in an ineffable way, her Beloved whom she sought. She could never be separated from Him. She was nearer to Him than any other creature ever could be, and the mountain tops of heroic sanctity were nothing to her elevation. She was folded in the complacency of the eternal Trinity, the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son, the spouse of the Holy Ghost. We behold, therefore, on this day, the accomplishment of the primeval prophecy and the actual redemption of our race. We see the faithfulness of God, Who in His own good time fulfills all His promises. The covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob was kept notwithstanding the ingratitude and rebellion of nearly the whole chosen nation. The light which the prophets saw at a distance was the divine light. “A virgin had conceived,” and the name of her child was Emmanuel, “God with us.” The faith of the patriarchs was realized, and the first Adam, who was only a living soul, rejoiced in the coming of the second Adam, a quickening spirit, the Lord from Heaven. And Mary’s great dignity was also a reward to her fidelity. She had never disobeyed even in thought the will of God. She had made good use of every grace, and it was her recompense not only to be united to the Author of Life, but to conceive in her chaste womb Him Whom the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain. So the Master Whom we serve is always better than His promise, and if we were only faithful to Him, we should obtain joys of which this world has no knowledge.
How often God sought us, and in how many thousand ways has He shown His especial favor toward us!
His advances have been met by coldness, indifference, or ingratitude. He has sought to unite Himself to us, and we have sought the friendship of the world, the satisfaction of our own pride, and the gratification of passion. Let us learn by Mary’s fidelity, and her great reward, to correspond more faithfully to the divine mercy toward our souls. The voice of our beloved Redeemer is really calling us. Let us seek to return to Him some of that love which He has so squandered upon our ungrateful hearts.