Reflection for the Annunciation

I have been holding Luke’s account of the Annunciation alongside my ongoing reading of John’s gospel and find various thoughts emerging. I’m not sure that I have woven these thoughts together in a theologically coherent manner but I offer them in hope that they might prove fruitful for you too.

With the story of the Annunciation we are given Luke’s way of expressing the mystery of the origins of Jesus. I think of it as in the same territory as the Prologue of John’s gospel, with both conveying the extraordinary fact of the creator God taking on our human flesh. John writes of Jesus’ origins in language of cosmic grandeur whereas Luke tells an intimate and human story of the angel Gabriel coming to the young woman Mary.

I’ve been particularly struck by the phrase ‘the Lord is with you’, said by the angel in his greeting, before ever Mary had the opportunity to respond. The Lord’s presence with her did not depend on her response, he was already there. Indeed how could it be otherwise as ‘all things came into being through him’. At the heart of everything is God’s word, giving life to everything that is. As the writer of the Epistle of Privy Counsel puts it: ‘God is your being’, and that is true for each one of us whether we recognise it or not. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist here we hear that phrase ‘the Lord is with you’ addressed to us, reminding us of that amazing truth.

Yet God allows his presence in us to be constrained and shaped by our response. He does not take over and control us. Mary had the choice to say ‘no’, and who knows whether others before her had responded in that way? I sometimes wonder! But she said ‘yes’ to God’s surprising call and opened herself to the work of the Holy Spirit, allowing Jesus to be conceived in her womb. She gave life to the Lord’s presence with her in a unique way and there began the work of our salvation.

Mary’s willing response enabled God to enter into our human existence. The word that was from the beginning entered into time at that moment, and the Son surrendered himself to the human, organic process of development. Mary also had to surrender herself to the organic process of pregnancy, as any mother has to. The baby has a life of its own and the mother can only accept that growth within her. Her role is to nurture and allow rather than to control and constrain.

We too are called to incarnate God’s presence in our own unique way, we are each called to live out that amazing statement ‘The Lord is with you’. We entered into Christ’s life in baptism and we, like Mary, must respond and surrender to allow that life to grow in us. We are called to a passivity in the face of God’s work within us, as a mother has to be passive in the face of the growth of her baby within. Yet it is an active passivity, a passivity that requires hard work of us. We have a choice day by day to open to that reality or to block it, to choose the things that nurture that life within us or that distract us from it.

As we head towards the silence of Holy Week I pray that each one of us will find a way to surrender anew to God’s work within us, to our own personal ‘passion’, whatever that might be this year. I pray that we come to know in our hearts and live out in our lives that the Lord is with us.

Mother Anne - 25th March 2021