Gospel Luke 1:26-38

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’

It is the Sunday before Christmas, and the Church puts forward this reading, reminding us of that precious moment when Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on flesh in her womb.

Against the backdrop of the readings from the last few weeks where we have been regaled with stories of John the Baptist and his rather harsh delivery of a message of repentance, today’s Gospel is striking in its simplicity. Rather than the bold, bombastic figure of John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness, here we have the humble virgin of Nazareth, addressed by the angel Gabriel, in what would no doubt be for her some rather troubling discussions.

Mary’s response, despite the troubling nature of the news, is fundamentally a response of receptivity. The humble virgin of Nazareth models for us what is in fact a perfect creaturely posture of active receptivity. ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’

The attitude of receptivity exemplified by Mary in this story, and throughout her life, is not an attitude that draws much praise in contemporary culture. For us (post)moderns it is considered praiseworthy to go out and get what it is that you want, to force our will upon what we come across. Reality has no meaning prior to my encounter with it, and as such we are charged with imbuing this meaning.

Mary however, exhibits a different way pf being. She is content in the reality that she is totally dependent upon God. She is consequently open to receive all of reality as a gift, and as given. Things have an integrity and a meaning prior to her encounter with them, and so she waits as they present themselves to her.

Let us use this time to practice our openness to things as they are, as they are given.

Point to Ponder

“Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”

– Saint Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 37