“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27). The angelic visitation and Mary’s eventual fiat (let it be to me) is of great significance to the Universal Church and all her members. In a sense, every conversion imitates this pattern, arising not from human agency but divine act and gift.
When, for instance, Peter confessed, saying, “’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,.’… Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven’” (Matt. 16:16-17). Similarly, the prologue of John’s gospel states, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Elsewhere in John’s gospel, Jesus highlighted divine election, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last … I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another” (John 15:16-17). God in Christ makes the first move: I choose, I appoint, I give. Conversion, therefore, is never a human accomplishment. Conversion is the Spirit’s overshadowing and the declaration that we are the locus of a “daily visitation” (collect).
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Word’s dwelling or tabernacling among us suggests not only Mary’s reception of the Word but also the mysterious mode in which God has long dwelt among his people. “I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle,” the Lord says to David in protest against David’s plan to “build a house for the Lord to dwell in” (2 Sam. 7:6). This recalls St. Paul’s admonition, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (I Cor. 6:19-20). Mary’s vocation as the Mother of our Lord is a recapitulation of Israel as the unique abode of God, and an anticipation of all the Church is called to be.
Having touched upon Scripture, the augmenting voice of tradition will reinforce the point that the Spirit overshadows us, and we become a womb to the Word. By grace, we carry Christ.
“In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. … This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church, in a special sense, Mary, in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith” (Isaac of Stella, Sermon 51).
Mary is not only the Mother of our Lord and the Mother of the Church Universal; she is also what every Christian is. She and we are together a tent of meeting.
Look It Up: Rom. 16:25-27
Think About It: How can this be? A mystery is disclosed, the Spirit overshadows, grace prompts the “obedience of faith.”