Annunciation, Giotto, Museo Diocesano, Cortona, Italy.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:30
This was the moment the world had waited for. It fulfilled the prophecy early in Genesis:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:15.
predicting that evil would eventually be defeated by a New Eve who would give birth to a New Adam (thus reversing the pattern in Genesis, where Eve was born of Adam!). We recently celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. This unique event was to prepare for today’s gospel, which could be correctly called the Conception of All Time, as it was at this point, once Mary had obeyed God’s call, that Jesus was conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit.
Christians have accepted this event as demonstrating clearly that Jesus was both fully human (born of a human woman) and divine (conceived by God’s Holy Spirit). Hence he was prey to all the temptations that we are, suffered all the indignities and hurt that we have felt, and risen well and perfectly to the occasion, as we should always have done so. It also demonstrates the obedience of Mary to God’s wish that she bear a child even though she was not wed, presenting an enormous challenge to her. Yet she obeyed. Again this contrasts to the First Eve, who disobeyed God’s wishes. Indeed. many statues of Mary show her standing on the symbolic serpent holding the catastrophic fruit in his jaws, “bruising his head”. Again, tradition makes this poor fruit an apple; Scripture is silent on the point.
So this seen is the final step towards the birth of Jesus which we celebrate on the 25th. Bear in mind that Mary was almost certainly a teenager, and that marriage in those days was almost always between two young people in their teens. Joseph, however, is almost always depicted as an old man, though there is nothing in Scripture to support that, and if that were so, it would have been very unusual. But it is so because by tradition Mary remained a virgin and had no further children; again Scripture is silent on the point, at least through some interpretations. Having a sister of my own, it would be quite acceptable to think of the Lord having a sibling or siblings. However…
So at this point the world holds it breath. The moment that salvation history has awaited for centuries is about to arrive. So the angels prepare to sing Gloria in excelsis Deo!