A Chapter Talk for the Feast of the Annunciation

Each year, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Church recalls that unique moment in time when the Word of God took flesh in the womb of His Immaculate Mother. It is the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, the beginning of our salvation, for here, in human form, is the innocent Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. His beginnings are small and gentle, as befits a merciful God. He does not force Himself upon us, nor is there any flashy show of worldly pomp. The greatest event in all of human history—God emptying Himself to enter into His creation as a human being—takes place without any weapons or armies, without any spectacular or glamorous advertising, but so simply, in silence, hidden from the curious and the proud. Mary gives her consent. The Holy Spirit overshadows her. And Jesus starts His human life as a tiny embryo, utterly dependent upon His Mother.

But we know that the Church does more than recall this event. Through the Liturgy, she opens up for us the grace of this precious moment in time. The event itself is mysteriously made present to us. We are given the opportunity of adoring Our Lord at the very moment He enters the world. We can marvel at His humility and His obedience to the Father’s will, and we can pray for the grace to imitate these virtues. We can thank our Blessed Mother for her all-important “yes.” We can thank the Eternal Father, too, for sending His Son, and for sending an angel to announce this Good News. It is not only an event happening in the past, but one touching our lives today, inviting us to a closer relationship to Our Lord. As the opening prayer at Mass puts it: “O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature.”

The taking of a human body also figures largely in the Church’s celebration of this feast. The second reading at Mass, quoting the Letter to the Hebrews, tells us that when Christ came into the world He said: “Sacrifice and oblation you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me.” It is a body destined for sacrifice, a body intimately connected to the sacramental order chosen by God as the efficacious means by which grace is dispensed to us. And while the “body” spoken of here is certainly the physical body of Jesus, it can also be interpreted, by way of extension, as His Mystical Body, the Church. God, the Eternal Father, has prepared a Mystical Body for Christ to one day enjoy. Which is to say, God the Father will make Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross fruitful—immensely fruitful. For the will of the Father, the divine plan that Jesus will so lovingly embrace at every moment of His earthly life, is not that we should perish, but that we should have eternal life in the bliss of heaven. Although there is sorrow and suffering ahead for this newly conceived Child, there is also the greatest honor and joy. He is the Savior, and He is the King!

So let us echo Mary’s fiat. Let us welcome Jesus into our hearts. Let us be grateful to be numbered among one of His members, and rejoice in the gift which is beyond all telling. For God, the Almighty One who is everywhere, has entered into a new intimacy with His creation. He has become human like us—something we can touch, and see, and hear, something we can relate to and understand in human terms. This is the great gift of the Incarnation which the Church never tires of pondering and celebrating each year on the Feast of the Annuciation.