By Jon Adamson
Thirty-four years before these words, Our Lady received the angel’s message — declaring her full of grace and soon to be full with the Child who would pour grace upon the whole world. At this Annunciation, she was troubled at the saying. She was betrothed but had not consummated the marriage and her mind reeled to consider how this could be.
And yet she obeyed. She not only heard God’s message through the angel, she listened to it. She internalized it even as the Word was becoming incarnate within her. And as we hear later in response to her kinswoman, her spirit rejoiced! She obeyed not only because she had listened to this specific message but because she had been listening to the Scriptures and the story of her people all along. Her song — the Magnificat — is such a succinct declaration of the Covenant, the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets and an announcement of their coming fulfillment. Behold! The handmaiden of the Lord!
Her obedience ripened into stability. Amid the rush of circumstances and tribulations in the flight to Egypt or the routine of cares and toil during the years in Nazareth, she exercised her vocation of motherhood such that her Son grew in stature, in wisdom, and in favor with God and man. So much so that years later he would use her as an exemplar in his teaching. Who is my mother or brother or sister? The one who does the will of God. Behold! She is a mother twice over!
And so, she stood at the foot of the Cross for this, a second Annunciation. Once again without husband, a widow, she was minutes from losing her firstborn. Having spent years pondering all the events in their lives had meant, she obeyed to the apparent end, stable when so many others proved faithless. Did she know that the hour of conversion was at hand? That new life was to burst forth for Jew and Gentile? That the barren grave could give birth as assuredly as a virgin pure? Did her mind reel at how this could be? All we know is that she went to the disciple’s home, consenting to the adoption. Behold! Her descendents will be as numerous as the stars!
It is not improper to look ahead even as we remember our Lord’s Passion. For a birth was to come from this second Annunciation. Just fifty days later, Our Lady would be at another birth — of the Church — and she would become both its icon and its mother. The tongue of fire kindled a familiar feeling deep within her; she knew what the Spirit felt like. The Word was now written on her heart as it had been knit in her womb. And when she spoke — a second Magnificat — in the Magi’s tongue, she declared the Good News of salvation that was to come to the ends of the earth, an unrecorded song of grace. It is because of this second birth that we can call Mary our Mother, Jesus our Lord, and this Friday Good as we make our song even at the grave.
Jon Adamson is secretary to the Bishop of Northern Indiana and a licensed lay preacher at St. Paul’s Church, Mishawaka.