The pastor of my parish, who wrote a weekly essay in our parish bulletin, retired a year ago. I was asked to write a spirituality column to take the place of the pastor’s weekly essay. I thought our new pastor would take over, but he seems to prefer that I continue. I will, but I’ve decided to cut back on the frequency from weekly to monthly. The following is my final essay for this year. It is a slightly edited version of what will be published on the church bulletin.
Mary hail! Though afraid, She believed. She obeyed.
In her womb, God is laid: Till the time expected,
Nurtured and protected.
From the hymn, “Long Ago Prophets Knew” by Fred Green
The Evangelist Saint Luke tells us some powerful truths about Jesus and his mother Mary (Luke 1:26-38). We learn that Mary was full of grace and favored by God, so much so that God invited her to be the mother of His own Son! This Divine Son was to be named Jesus, which means God saves. What’s more, Jesus was a descendent of King David by way of Mary’s betrothed spouse, Joseph.
Many scholars believe Mary was about 14 years of age when this event in her life occurred. Despite her youthful age, Mary had the presence of mind to ask the archangel quite candidly how such a thing could happen to her, as she was a virgin. Gabriel explained that Jesus was to be conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by human means. Once she heard this Mary calmly and humbly accepted God’s will.
Mary’s yes was the moment that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a). In the profession of faith, the Nicene Creed, this truth is affirmed with the words, “For us men and for our salvation he [Jesus Christ] came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
According to the historian Jaroslav Pelikan, author of Mary through the Centuries, the Marian theme that has most captivated the attention of artists through the ages is Luke’s portrayal of Mary’s encounter with Archangel Gabriel. Out of curiosity I did an Internet search. There I found a superabundance of fine artistic renderings of the Annunciation scene that span many eras and cultures. The one above is from a series on The Mysteries of the Rosary by the contemporary Polish artist Agata Padol. In this depiction of Mary, I see the Holy Spirit overshadowing her. Its abstractness reminds me that God’s ways are a mystery; yet nothing is impossible for God!
As I conclude my Advent journey to Bethlehem, I ponder and pray on these holy mysteries and invite you to join me. Let’s welcome the infant Lord and King of heaven and earth into the crèche of our hearts.