This is the first part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into eight key mysteries of the Rosary offering reflections on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels and New Testament.
Mary stands here at the turn of salvation history, embodying the faithful of Israel and making way for the Messiah. In fact, the angel’s greeting “Hail” (χαῖρε) is the exact same as that given to Daughter Zion in the Greek version of Zeph 3:14. This is significant because “Daughter Zion” in the prophets generally refers to the eschatological people of God—that is, the people of God as God has called them to be; Mary, then, embodies this glorious radiance which God has always destined for his people. And the Zephaniah passage continues: “The King is in her midst” (Zeph 3:15); indeed, in the Annunciation the King is in her midst, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin (cf. Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 42-3).
Moreover, the angel doesn’t address Mary by name, but rather astonishingly as: “Hail, full of grace.” This breathtaking greeting offers a glimpse of the grandeur of the Incarnation, as seen from Heaven’s vantage point.
Further, the phrase “the Lord is with you,” used by the angel with reference to Mary, occurs throughout the Bible in order to indicate God’s presence and support for accomplishing his mission, as for example with Moses (Ex 3:12), Joshua (Josh 1:5, 9), Gideon (Judg 6:12), and Jeremiah (Jer 1:8). This means that Mary, too, stands on the cusp of some great moment in salvation history. And Mary responds with unflinching faith: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). In a sense, God’s plan hinges on the faith and obedience of the Virgin Mary; and for that, all generations call her “blessed” (Lk 1:42).
Sometimes much is made of the distinction between Jesus’ physical family and his spiritual family—the latter marked by those who “hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21; cf. 11:27-28). But a distinction need not entail a separation; and in fact, St. Luke portrays Mary as the one who quintessentially “hears the word of God and does it” (cf. Lk 1:38-39; cf. 2:19, 51); in other words, she goes before us as model disciple and embodiment of the Church; and in Luke’s sequel (Acts of the Apostles), she is there persevering to the end with the disciples (Acts 1:14).
May we follow Mary’s path of saying “yes” to the Lord from beginning to end: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37). (Tweet this.)
In what way have you said yes to God lately as Mary did at the Annunciation, allowing his grace to flow into your life?
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Painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.