The third week of Advent is swiftly meeting the fourth, and in Bethlehem, Mary is about ready to pop. I wonder if she had any weird pregnancy cravings, what with her womb being occupied by the Child of God. But I digress.
This week, I have been studying the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) and the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and it has reminded me how much I miss Mary from the Catholic traditions. Tonight, I will focus primarily the Annunciation.
Growing up at St. Blaise, I hardly ever (never) read the Bible. I knew all the prayers and choreography of Mass, but never actually took the time to learn why any of this was important. Like every good Catholic girl, I knew the “Hail Mary” was an intercessory prayer, but I didn’t have a flippin’ clue what it meant:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
The first time I read Luke 1 after my near decade hiatus, I was both filled with complete adoration for Mary and slapped in the face with the sacredness of the prayer I used to recite with no consideration of its piety. Mary was a poor, unmarried, 14-ish-year-old. She lived in a dangerously patriarchal society and was pregnant with a child her not-yet-husband had nothing to do with. Today, she would end up in prison for adultery, or sentenced to stoning or lashings, or dead. Socially and politically, she was nobody. She was the lowest of the lowly. In her time and in her place, she was ignored by her society.
In her time and in her place, I wonder if she felt ignored by God, too. Consider the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke:
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
The angel Gabriel appeared to this poorest of the poor girl in Galilee to announce that not only is God aware of and pleased with her, but that He needed her to give birth to the Son of God. Her reaction, I imagine if translated to modern conversation, probably sounded like, “Are you freaking kidding me?”
For me, the Annunciation is a powerful story that makes it perfectly clear that God is aware of and has especially found favor in the lowly and forgotten. He pulled the ignored out of obscurity and celebrated her life with a calling of eternal consequence. “Thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee.” This is faith through the eyes of the poor: their suffering, their pain, their struggling, their hope. This is liberation theology. This is the Annunciation.
Next up: There’s Still Something About Mary: The Magnificat.
So much love,