04 April, 2016

Homily for the Solemnity of Annunciation of the Lord – Ecumenical Dialogue Through Mary

Luke 1:26-38

‘For us and for our salvation 
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit
and the Virgin Mary and was made man.’
Henry Ossawa Tanner - The Annunciation
The Solemnity of the Annunciation owes its name from the Archangel Gabriel “announcement” to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she had been chosen by the Father to be the mother of his only-begotten Son. This is usually kept on 25th March, precisely nine months before Christmas, and it celebrates the incarnation of Jesus, the moment in which God the Son became flesh. Oceans of ink have been spilled on the relevance of this feast and I do not which to repeat their arguments here, but I would just like to meditate with you on a couple of points.

The first relates to the snippet of the creed I have just read. When we think of salvation in Jesus Christ many of us will naturally associate it to the Cross or perhaps to the Resurrection; in short many of us would associate salvation to something that “grown-up Jesus” did willingly on a Cross or mightily coming out of a tomb. This is quite right, because the crowning of Salvation are indeed Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. But I wonder how many of us would associate salvation with the Annunciation?
The Creed affirms that the Lord became incarnate ‘for us and for our salvation’ meaning that this simple, yet truly extraordinary, act is the moment in which our salvation in Jesus Christ started; and it began by taking form, quite literally so, in the womb Mary. By uniting our flesh to his immortal nature God began to redeem every aspect of humanity; and by uniting matter, the stuff of creation, to his spiritual nature, God began to redeem every aspect of creation. So, when we think of salvation, let us not associate it with the Cross and Resurrection alone, but with the whole person and life of Jesus Christ. 
Incidentally, this is the reason behind bowing (or genuflecting) when we recite the part of the Creed I just mentioned. Veneration of this great mistery that started our salvation brings us to lower ourselves before it.

The second point I would like to meditate on is the role Mary necessarily assumes at the Annunciation. In this solemnity we could think of her as Virgin, as expectant Mother of God, and as most blessed among women. But I would like us to think of her also as point of union between unlikely allies.
Many Christians brothers and sisters, though still a minority, criticise the rest of the Church for her veneration, love and affection for the Mary, to the point of seeing in the Blessed Virgin a stumbling block to ecumenical dialogue, but I don’t think this is right, and neither I think we should pay much attention to these criticisms. Mary can only be a point of union for Christians. At the Annunciation she becomes Mother of God and consequently also Mother of the entire Church Jesus establishes; Mother of us all. But there’s more. Mary is necessarily a point of union because within her own body Godhead and creation came together, “the unconceivable became conceivable” within her, and her womb became the forge in which the eternal fire of divinity was inseparably united to the matter of creation in one Person. So, if she was chosen by God as the place for this miraculous union, how could she ever be a cause of later separation for the same body of Christ, the Church?

May Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, help us with her prayers to grow in our understanding of Salvation and in unity with all our Christian brothers and sisters. Amen.

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