March 23, 2023
Dear Hyde Park Fmaily,
There are two sacred observances happening within the next ten days whose juxtaposition rarely gets much attention.
The first event is this Saturday, March 25, known as Annunciation Day. It is precisely nine months before Christmas Day, and it commemorates the visit by the angel Gabriel to a young Mary, the mother of Jesus. The second event is April 2, which is Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week, whose path leads to the cross on Golgotha.
Even though the date of Palm Sunday moves around from year to year, these two events are always within proximity of each other. Considering them in tandem makes a profound statement about faithful obedience.
Chief among the many reasons we admire Mary was her willingness to say yes to God. Her fears and doubts would have made it understandable for her to choose the easier path of self-preservation. Instead, she chose to obey God, regardless of the cost and pain that was sure to follow.
Thirty-three years later – but only a matter of days in liturgical time – we find a similar scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, the son of Mary wrestled with the very same kinds of questions that his mother faced when he was conceived. It was a choice between comfort or obedience, between self-preservation or self-sacrifice, between human will or God’s will.
By linking Annunciation Day and Holy Week, we can draw parallels between these bookends of the life of Jesus. He was born of a woman who chose to obey God, just as he chose to live obediently until the end of his life.
“SING ME THE SONG AGAIN, MAMA”
We might even imagine a very young Jesus, talking to his mother about the day the angel visited her, and learning from her about obedience:
“Mama, tell me the story again of how the angel visited you.”
“Well, dear, he caught me by surprise one day. He told me not to be afraid, and that God had chosen me to give birth to you.”
“Were you afraid?”
“I was at first, of course. Nothing like this had ever happened to me, and I didn’t know what others might think. But there was something about the presence of God in that angel that gave me great comfort. I said yes, and I’m so glad that I did.”
“Why were you glad, Mama?”
“Because then I could have you in my life, dear! But more than that, I knew deep down in my heart that God was going to do great things to change the world, and that God wanted to do them through me. To exalt the humble, fill the hungry, remember the lowly: it is a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way. We must say yes, even when it is difficult to do so. Do you understand that, Jesus?”
“Yes, Mama. May I ask another question?”
“Of course, dear.”
“Can you sing me that song again? The one you sang when you said yes to the angel?”
I’d like to think that years later, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying earnestly with a blood-soaked brow, the words and melody of his mother’s Magnificat entered his mind.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons forever.
In those moments when life is most difficult, and the pain and trauma of life have us in their grip, we often have our sharpest and clearest memories of the lessons our parents taught us. Lessons about staying steadfast in our convictions and courageous in our actions. We learn from our ancestors how to claim our future. And I think Jesus learned a thing or two about obedience from the woman whose obedience brought him into earthly existence.
It would be good spiritual preparation during Lent for us to pause for a moment, before the pageantry of Palm Sunday and the passion of Holy Week, to remember Annunciation Day, and the obedience of Mary. May she call us to a deeper place of surrender to God, just as her example did for Jesus himself.
Grace and Peace,
Maryʼs Golden Annunciation
Carmelle Beaugelin | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org