On Wednesday 25 March we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Unusually for a day in the Lenten season, we use the Gloria at Mass, although not the Alleluia which is now reserved for the Easter Vigil and Masses of the Easter season.
The Annunciation celebrates that moment when Saint Gabriel the Archangel communicates to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Son of God. Mary, also a daughter of God, gave her ‘Fiat’ (Be it done) by which she conceived the Saviour by the working of the Holy Spirit.
We can always find great significance in the dialogue recounted in the Gospel of this solemn feast – Mary is humble yet, through the work and will of the Father, she is also great. Through her consent to God’s plans, she took part in the whole redemptive work of her Son; we, therefore, venerate her as Mother of Christ and our mother.
It is a feast which puts us in mind of the thinking and writing of one of England’s great saints, Julian of Norwich, with her emphasis on two attributes of God’s working in our lives which perhaps we lose sight of a little today – God’s ‘courtesy’ and his ‘homeliness’. In using these two images Julian does not seek to lessen God’s majesty and greatness – far from it. Rather, she sees that it is in courteous love and everyday kindnesses that God is fully revealed to us. However, there is also a challenge; if this is our theology (our ‘words about God’, expressing our understanding of God), then we should mirror and exemplify these attributes in our own lives.
So it is that Julian’s understanding of God’s love is not something so ‘mystical' or far removed from human experience as to be beyond us; no, in the ‘courtesy’ of the Annunciation, in the homeliness of his dealing with men and women who sought his presence and company, and above all in his suffering for our sake, Jesus gives us truly an example that we should imitate.
‘And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time. And I received no other answer in showing from our Lord God but this: “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things and I shall make all things well.”’