Sunday, August 5, 2012

Meditation on the First Joyful Mystery - The Annunciation

Yesterday, August 4, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity 

The young girl Mary in prayer
Today I wish to post a meditation on the first Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to our Blessed Mother. This Mystery involves the beginning of the Gospel story in which we see our Lady as a young girl, probably about 14 years old, living in Nazareth who is recently engaged to Joseph. She is somewhat upset about this because it had been her intention to dedicate her life to God as a virgin. But she was an extremely obedient young girl and did as her parents wished.  

A great miracle had occurred with Mary's cousin, Elizabeth and her husband, Zachary, who lived in Jerusalem. They were an older couple and had never been able to have children. Elizabeth was now past the age of child bearing. However, an angel appeared to Zachary and told him Elizabeth would conceive. Zachary disbelieved and laughed at the angel, but to both his and Elizabeth's amazement, she did conceive and was now in her sixth month of pregnancy.

This same angel, the angel Gabriel, now went to Nazareth where Mary lived and appeared to her. We are told in Luke 1:28 - "And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." This is now the first part of the "Hail Mary" prayer which every Catholic learns from the time they can talk (or at least we use to learn it at an early age).

 The book of Luke tells us of Mary's reaction to the angel: "Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be." I think this is probably a bit of an understatement.  Anyone would be quite frightened if a supernatural being suddenly appeared in front of him. Gabriel immediately addressed Mary's concerns and said: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God."   Our Blessed Mother has appeared many times over the centuries, and especially in the last couple of hundred years, to many people. Like Gabriel, one of her first statements is usually "Do not be afraid." I am sure she keeps in mind how she felt when Gabriel appeared to her.

There is no doubt that Mary was still very confused at this point and could not fathom what possible reason an angel could have for appearing to her.   She was just a poor little Jewish girl in an unimportant town without any influence on anyone or anything.  Why would God single her out? 

The angel Gabriel went on with his message:  "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.  And of his kingdom there shall be no end. "

Mary's mind most likely reeled at this message.  She was engaged to be married, and this could most certainly cause major problems. If she became pregnant outside of marriage, she could be stoned to death.  And what is this about giving birth to the Son of the Most High who will reign over the house of Jacob forever? How was she, a little non-entity Jewish girl with no prestige in the world and probably not even able to read, going to give birth to the Son of the Most High?

 Mary had to be completely overwhelmed with this message.  Unlike Zachary, she did not laugh at or disbelieve Gabriel.  She did not protest in any way with Gabriel or try to go into the many arguments that most likely popped into her mind.  The only question Mary asked the Angel Gabriel was, "How shall this be done, because I know not man?"   No when, where, what or why.  As far as Mary knew, it was not possible to become pregnant while still a virgin.  But there was no looking for a way out, no hesitation at all.  She merely wanted to know how this would be done. 

And Gabriel told her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.."  Gabriel also told Mary about the miracle of her cousin Elizabeth becoming pregnant in her old age.  "And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God." 

I think it is safe to say the young Mary still did not understand how or what was happening to her.  All she knew was God was asking her to bear a Son for him.  Without hesitation, without argument, she gave her answer to Gabriel. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." 

At that point one of the most momentous events in history occurred. As we say in the Angelus, "And The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."  With her "Yes", Mary became the new Eve.  Our first mother Eve said no to God and yes to Satan, and condemned herself and all her progeny to be born with original sin and live cut off from our Creator.  Mary's "yes" brought Christ to this earth and through His Sacrifice, cleanses us of the sin we have inherited from our first parents and brings us into the Kingdom of God.  With her "Yes", Mary crushed the head of that old serpent, Satan, and became the destroyer of all heresies.  “Thou alone, O Mary, has crushed all heresies in the whole world,” sings the Church in the Divine Office. We are told in Genesis 3:15:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

When Mary said "Yes," God in the second Person of the Trinity left his throne in heaven and took up residence in the womb of a young girl on earth.  She became the Ark of the Covenant, the Gate of Heaven.  Through Mary's "Yes," God became Man.  The Creator became one of the created.  Christ took on the form of a slave, as the Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Philippians 2:6-7:  
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
Mary gave Christ the human nature which, 33 years later, was poured out on the Cross to redeem mankind from eternity in hell.  Mary was a part of this great Sacrifice by our Lord and Creator from the beginning.  She shared equally in His Sufferings, in His Passion and in His Triumph over sin and now reigns with Him in heaven as Queen of Heaven and Earth.  In one of his very last acts before his death, Christ gave His Mother to be our Mother, this great symbol of humility and obedience to God.  The Queen of Heaven and Earth is our Mother just as much as she is the Mother of God. 

No other religion in the world has their god sacrificing himself to save men.  Christianity is unique among all beliefs because it is the true belief. And it was the young unknown girl in Nazareth, Mary, who gave Christ to us in the form of a man through her Yes to the Angel Gabriel. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I have never completed the Five First Saturdays. I keep forgetting. But I think these meditations will help much. Beautifully said and hopefully prayed on my part.


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