Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation

Disarmed by God’s desire for her, Mary allows her life to be wildly interrupted by God’s desire for a body.  Her wholehearted, half-overjoyed, half-fearful “yes” gives God a home, a body in which to dwell; God growing there in increments, until she is filled to overflowing with him. God will reply with delight and gratitude,A body you prepared for me. Behold I come.”
We celebrate this morning Mary’s gift of her body to God. She gives him her flesh. Because of her, he has hands that will heal and bless and be nailed to the wood of the cross. Because of her, he has a heart to love with, a heart that will gashed open by a cruel lance.*

If as Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, we must go to the fringes to be with the poor and forgotten, it is because that is where God is. That is where God goes to find Mary, among the poorest and most powerless. And each of us must go down there to the fringes, to the frontiers of our own poverty and emptiness. For our poverty and emptiness make God happy, not because he wants us sad but because they allow God to fill us with himself, which is all he really wants to do. Down in the dark recesses of our hearts, we discover like Mary a great empty space where God’s mercy can grow and swell in us, a space that he can fill with his own gracious presence.

God in Christ desires to surrender himself to us. It is the secret we were born for. And our unending work is to let ourselves be defenseless, utterly defenseless, like Mary, in the face of such self-offering; utterly nonresistant to God’s desire for us, for our body, our whole selves.

Formed and nurtured under the pliant, loving heart of Mary, Jesus will do as his Mother did and give his whole body over to God, in loving obedience to his Father’s desire to save us from our selfishness and sin. It is what we will watch him do next week in the horror of his passion; it is what he does for us each morning in the Eucharist: give us the body that was given to him by the Virgin Mary.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
*See Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God.