After announcing the miraculous conception of John the Baptist to the elderly Elizabeth and Zachariah, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the young virgin Mary (about 15 years old); a virgin is prophesied to bear the Messiah (Isa 7:14). Mary is betrothed (married but still living separate and celibate) to Joseph (late 30’s), who is of the kingly lineage of King David; the Messiah is prophesied to be born to a descendant of David (2 Sam 7). Both live in Nazareth, a backwater town in the rural Galilee; Nazareth was prophesied to be where the Messiah will live (Isa 11:1; Mt 2:23).

Gabriel, the magnificent archangel who resides in the presence of God, reverently addresses Mary, not by her name, but by title, “Full of Grace”, meaning God has already graced Mary with Divine Life (she is the Immaculate Conception),  a worthy vessel for the Incarnation. Gabriel greets Mary, saying, “The Lord be with you”, the same greeting given to God’s great warriors: Moses, Gideon, Joshua. Gabriel tells Mary the Son of God will be conceived in her womb and she shall name the child, Jesus, meaning “God saves.” Jesus will establish the promised never-ending Kingdom of God.

Mary is greatly troubled but consoled by the Archangel. Gabriel urges Mary not to be afraid and that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, allowing her to conceive the Son of God. “Overshadow” is the same language used when God overshadows the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle in which God resides during the Exodus (Ex 40:35); Mary is the New Tabernacle and the Son of God will reside in her womb. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, offers the perfect response in her fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”

1) God’s mysterious power is beyond human imagination. Marvel that Christ creates and inspires Isaiah to prophesy of His Incarnation; He conceives Mary to be the Immaculate Conception, to carry Him in her womb; He sends the Holy Spirit to allow Mary to supernaturally conceive…God!

2) The Annunciation is among the most awe-inspiring passages of Scripture, certainly eclipsing any other work of literature. On this great Feast Day, reflect upon the truth of the Creed that Christ is Born of the Virgin Mary (CCC 484-511) and pray for Christ to help you marvel and be converted by this beautiful revelation of God’s amazing intervention to save mankind.

3) Born in Original Sin, men can’t conceive life without sin. During Advent, reflect upon Mary Full of Grace (CCC 490-493, 721-726, 744) and Original Sin (CCC 396-409, 416-419) and pray for Christ to help you hate sin and grow in holiness as you prepare for Heaven. Mary, Full of Grace, pray for us!