The Annunciation and Visitation of Mary
- HAVE YOU GIVEN YOUR HEART TO JESUS?
- HAVE YOU ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR?
Many Christians consider these to be important questions concerning one’s relationship withGod. Baptism – according to the instruction of Jesus and the practice of both the early and contemporary Church –establishes a solid relationship with God. But when Mary first encountered Jesus Christ, there was no Christian baptism. Also, the Church’s teaching about Mary’s Immaculate Conception, while perhaps implied in the Gospel is not explicitly demonstrated there. So let’s look simply at the Gospel and what it tells us about Mary and these 2 questions.
- Have you given your heart to Jesus?
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary had a wonderful deep relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary he stated that she was “full of grace”, that “the Lord is with you” and that she had “found favor with God” (Lk 1:28,30). A threefold acknowledgement of Mary’s profound and faithful relationship to God. Gabriel then outlines for her the role Almighty God wants her to accept in the great Incarnation Mission of His Son. Her fiat – “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) – invites God into human history; immediately thereafter Christ is conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. The early Church Fathers were so impressed by this definitive openness of Mary to the will of God that they would say that Mary conceived Christ in her mind and heart before she conceived Him in her womb. Hence, going back to the above question – Mary was the First person to give her heart to Jesus
2. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Mary answers this question at the event we call The Visitation (celebrated on May 31st), where she visits her cousin Elizabeth (and unborn John the Baptist….and Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah). First, we see that Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and blesses Mary for her great faith. Then Mary responds with her famous Magnificat, which begins with the words:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (KJV translation)
Note the two words; Lord & Savior! Mary had already accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior – according to Scripture – about a week after Unborn Jesus had been conceived in her womb (if not earlier)! Again, Mary is the First person to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior!
Of course this wondrous relationship between Mary and her Son would continue to unfold and strengthen. She gave birth to Him (Lk 2:1-20), she flees to Egypt to protect Him from persecution (Mt 2:13-15), she raises Him with tender love, she encourages Him to perform His first miracle sign (Jn 2:1-12), she even stands at the foot of the cross as our Lord and Savior dies for us (Jn 19:25), Her Son entrusts His disciples to her maternal care from the Cross Jn 19:26-27), and she is with the early Church – praying – on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:12-15).
No wonder then, that Mary is recognized not only as the First Believer to believe in Jesus, but also as the First Christian to love Jesus.
Jesus among the Doctors – Duccio di Buoninsegna
When Jesus was 12 years old he and His parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. When they began their return trip to Nazareth Jesus and His parents became separated. Finally Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple; “they were astonished; and his mother said to him…”
1st Conversation (Luke 2.48-51)
Mary: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Jesus: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary was distraught. But Jesus had the last word in this brief exchange. Then they left together; “And he went down with them…” Apparently they both took the conversation to heart: Jesus “was obedient to them”, and “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Wedding at Cana – Duccio di Buoninsegna
About 18 years later at the outset of our Lord’s public ministry they had another conversation in Cana at a wedding feast. The account starts out; “On the third day….” This is interesting because the prior conversation considered above was introduced as follows: “After three days they found him…” The wedding feast becomes remarkable because they ran out of wine, and the conversation is initiated out of concern for the newly married couple.
2nd Conversation (John 2.3-8)
Mary: “They have no wine.”
Jesus: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Did Mary learn a lesson from the last conversation? She now limits herself to a mere four words. Jesus calls her “woman”; the same title that Eve was given by Adam (Gen 2.23). And again Jesus gets the last word. Or does He? They now both turn away from each other and address the servants (who represent the Church)….
Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus: “Fill the jars with water…..Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”
Remember those later miracles when Jesus instructs individuals to go to the Priest so that the healing can be officially ‘verified’? Similarly, Jesus sends the servants to the steward, and as John points out, this was “the first of his signs”. Apparently, His hour had arrived – it coincided with a marriage ceremony and prefigured His own relationship to His Bride, the Church. With four words Mary becomes a match-maker. And once again, mother and son leave together; “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and…..” He is going out on His own, with His disciples, but we see Mary and Jesus in sync, working together, in unison.
All three conversations are associated with a feast day celebration; the first and third with Passover. When Jesus is on the cross, He sees His mother and ‘the disciple whom he loved’ standing near. This time, Mary – who is again distraught – is actually silent, but we might say that figuratively – or rather mystically – she “speaks” to her son from her heart….. perhaps through her eyes…. The scene unfolds with our Lord’s eyes, or gaze; “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother……”
3rd Conversation (Jn 19.26-27)
Jesus: “Woman, behold, your son!”
Jesus again calls her “woman”; this time it certainly seems to be like a title, because it takes on the semblance of a “last will and testament”. And Jesus has the last word. From the cross, now close to death, He draws the Church into His personal conversation with His mother. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” In their ‘2nd conversation’ it was Mary who drew the Church into the conversation with her son. This time Jesus draws the Church into the conversation. The account ends with these words: “And from that hour the disciple took her (Mary) to his own home.” So Mary (“woman”) becomes Mother to the Church, as Eve (“woman”) was “the mother of all living” (Gen 3.20).
Jesus dies, and according to tradition, He is placed in His mother’s arms, so once again they ‘leave’ together at the conclusion of the conversation. Unlike the prior two conversations, that were preceded by ‘three days’, this conversation signals the beginning of the ‘three days’ until His resurrection.
But in a way, Christ’s entire life was like an intimate conversation with humanity: “And the Word became flesh…” within Mary’s womb. As the Word of God, Jesus Christ had been conversing with His Mother from that very first day, and their conversation continues even now, and as the Church, we too are invited to join in – through prayer and love – as servants, as beloved disciples. We are especially invited to join in the ‘dialogue of the Church with her Lord’ in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass which recalls Passover, and in all the other sacraments such as Holy Matrimony.
For me personally, The Queenship of Mary is one of my favorite feast days of the 365 day Liturgical Year. I also like watching the Olympics. Let me explain.
Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics. Their origins go back before the time of Christ, and St. Paul, an educated Roman citizen knew that. So when Paul was writing to the Greek Christians in Corinth about the challenge of Christian living he felt it appropriate to speak about athletic competition:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly… (I Cor 9.24-26)
Years later, near the end of his life in a letter to Timothy, he stays with his athletic analogy, but the wreath is now a crown, and there is no longer just one winner:
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules…… I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” ( II Tim 2.5, 4.7-8) Who loved the Lord’s “appearing” more than his mother? Like Paul she “fought the good fight…finished the race…kept the faith”!
The early Church knew very well that the Christian faith was demanding:
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12.1)
“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1.12)
“And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.” (I Pet 5.4)
The crown awaiting each Christian is “imperishable”, a “crown of righteousness”, a “crown of life”, an “unfading crown of glory”. Mary’s crown is all this and more: “a crown of twelve stars…” (Rev 12.1). A tradition of Saints and scholars (including John Paul II; The Gospel of Life, #104) tells us it is Mary who is crowned in Revelations 12.
But every Christian crown will be gained by virtue of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” the three wise men asked? What charge did Pilate bring against Jesus and have inscribed on the cross? “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” The archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary about the kingship of her son. In the Book of Revelations we find references to Christ as King, and to His reign. Many Christians mistakenly think that Jesus is a king only in a symbolic sense, since he is not a political figure and we have evolved beyond monarchies. The Kingship of Jesus Christ is a spiritual truth which enlightens, a wonderful reality which we will enjoy in heaven.
We know a Queen through her ancestry and relationships, and we recognize her by her crown. As the Mother of Jesus Christ, Mary comes to her queenship supernaturally by the Will of God; as Mother. The “race” she ran is unparalleled in all human experience, and she excelled in every respect. For a succinct biblical presentation of her life see; Litany in Honor of Mary the First Christian.
Mary honored Unborn Jesus by accepting wholeheartedly the Plan and invitation of God to be mother to the Messiah/Savior and by then loving Him (Lk 1:38).
“In all these days, my gaze has necessarily focused on this depiction of the Annunciation of Mary (see above). What fascinated me is this: the Archangel Gabriel holds a scroll in his hand, which I believe is the symbol of Scripture, of the Word of God. And Mary is kneeling within the scroll; that is, she lives her whole life in the Word of God. It is as though she were steeped in the Word. Thus, all her thoughts, her will and her actions are imbued with and formed by the Word.
Since she herself dwells in the Word, she can also become the new “Dwelling Place” of the Word in the world.”
“The Virgin is involved with Jesus and she is the only one in the whole world involved with Jesus. Thus she is the only one in the whole world adoring the mystery of the Incarnation, which was brought about on earth for the earth but unknown to the earth. She is the only one adoring Jesus. The more that she is the only one captivated by such a great subject, the greater is her involvement. She is devoted to it with all her faculties. All her senses are brought to bear on it, for it is a tangible mystery and tangible within her. All her senses should pay homage to her God made tangible for human nature. Her whole mind is concentrated on it. And the Spirit of Jesus, which enlivens this little divinized body, enlivens the spirit and body of the Virgin as well, through grace, love and a holy, gentle influence.”
Cardinal Berulle (1575-1629) – writing about Mary’s attitude in the hours and days after the Annunciation.
We can imitate Mary in honoring Unborn Jesus by living his word and welcoming Him into our lives and by loving Him with our whole heart, mind and will. We also honor Unborn Jesus when we welcome unborn children into our world by our witness to their sacredness and by giving loving help to their mothers.
Annunciation Benedictine, Art Collections St. Lambrecht, Germany 18th Century, unknown artist from Styria
There are many parallels between Christ Unborn and Christ Eucharistic. Here we present just three biblically focused parallels in honor of Corpus Christi Sunday (Corpus Christi means ‘Body of Christ’).
1. The first parallel is between the words the Incarnate Christ spoke to His Father immediately upon entering the world (see Heb. 10.5-10), particularly: “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me…Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God…’” Compare this to the “words of consecration” spoken by our Lord at the passover Last Supper; “This is my body which is given for you…”, followed by the words of offering He spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane; “Father….not my will, but thine, be done.” The same human body prepared for Christ, would be offered up by Him on the cross after being truly and sacramentally presented during the Passover by Christ Himself.
2. Understanding that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, unfolds the second parallel for us; see Rev 11.19 -12.2. Also, recall that both the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant and Mary had both been ‘overshadowed’ by the Holy Spirit. The 3 month visit of (pregnant) Mary to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah a few miles west of Jerusalem, is actually prefigured in the Old Testament when the original Ark of the Old Covenant (containing Manna from Heaven) is brought by King David to the home of Obededom, located a few miles west of Jerusalem for 3 months (Sam 6.1-13). David dances for joy before the Ark, unborn John the Baptist leaps for joy before pregnant Mary. David says, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth says, “…why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Note: The Manna was the bread which came down from heaven, and Jesus referred to that Manna years later when He proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life (Jn 6.31-35).
3. The third parallel occurs in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph enter Bethlehem with the Unborn Christ Child, to fulfill prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah. The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread”. Mary carries within her “the bread of life” – and this Unborn Jesus who is “the Bread of Life”, will be born here for us. He is the “the true bread from heaven” (Jn 6.32) sent into the world for our nourishment and Salvation!
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman…”
The Lord God said to the serpent….“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 heal.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, He said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun…she was with child…And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child…she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron……and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God…And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle…The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman…But the earth came to the help of the woman… and swallowed the river…Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
Painting of Virgin Mary, Croatia, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Rector’s Palace
The angel Gabriel’s words in Nazareth: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1,28) also cast light on the scene at Calvary. The Annunciation comes at the beginning, the Cross signals the fulfillment.
At the Annunciation, Mary gives human nature to the Son of God within her womb; at the foot of the Cross, she welcomes the whole of humanity within her heart in the person of John. She was Mother of God from the first moments of the Incarnation, and she became the Mother of humanity during the final moments of the life of her Son Jesus on earth.
She, who was without sin, on Calvary “experienced” within her own being the suffering of sin that her Son had taken upon himself to save humankind. At the foot of the Cross on which was dying the One whom she had conceived at the moment of her “yes” at the Annunciation, Mary received, as it were, a “second annunciation”: “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19,26).