“Then the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38
The Annunciation is probably one of the more dramatic stories in the bible that has inspired many artists to paint, write, sculpt, and perform it over the centuries. Just Google “the Annunciation” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. My personal favorite is by Henry Ossawa Tanner, because it reveals another perspective of Mary’s experience of the angel Gabriel. It’s a more human representation of her that makes praying with it, that much richer. To me, Mary looks a bit apprehensive, somewhat fearful, and yet resigned to what God was asking of her. It’s as if this scene is what follows the final sentence of the gospel passage: “Then the Angel departed from her.” What happened to Mary after she said “yes”? Is that why she looks apprehensive, fearful and resigned as she realizes, “What the…what did I just say ‘yes’ to?”
It’s like a post-retreat experience where you’re riding high from the many graces of the retreat, but then frustration, confusion and maybe even doubt, starts to seep in as you plug back into the routine of everyday life.
But the spiritual life is not about seeking the consolations of God, but seeking the God of consolations. In other words, living out our faith means trusting that God is with us regardless of whether we “feel” God present or not, or whether others validate our graced experiences or not. The point is that God encountered us at all, and we need to trust in the grace of that encounter to carry us through the chaos, confusion, noise, and busyness of our daily living, until the next retreat or awesome prayer period.
As we continue our advent journey, we have the opportunity today to celebrate Mary’s place in God’s providential plan for human salvation. A plan that we are all a part of. Pope Francis says that the Immaculate Conception “is the fruit of God’s love which saves the world.” Since Christ was born of one preserved from all sin, he has made it possible for us to overcome sin's effect in our lives. Thankfully, today also begins the Extraordinary Jubilee year of Mercy. Take advantage of the opportunities in your parish to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and say “yes” to being consumed by God’s love and mercy.
Lord, how are you encountering me in this day?
Do I feel myself being “consumed” by your love and mercy?
Fr. Radmar Jao, SJ