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Of God and Mary

Monday, March 26, 2012

Luke 1:35, 38
The angel Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

In the Roman Catholic lectionary, the story of Gabriel speaking to Mary is told over and over. In the Orthodox Church the “Feast of the Annunciation” is so important it is celebrated along with Easter on the same day if the dates coincide. And, the only time the Orthodox Church celebrates a mass on Good Friday is when Good Friday is on March 25, the actual day of the Feast.

March 25 is exactly nine months before December 25. Nine months, and then the baby comes.

All of this came to Mary in a rush. But there is nothing in the Bible of her experience with the Holy Spirit and the “power of the Most High,” only this conversation with the angel Gabriel. The fearsome prediction of the angel, even after he asked Mary not to be afraid, stands in sharp contrast to Mary’s gentle receptivity. She accepted, welcomed, and simply rested in her “overshadowing.”

How do you picture this scene? Certainly not as artists have depicted Greek gods, raping and betraying both each other and humanity. Gabriel’s power and respect, complemented by Mary’s confident humility, makes this a marvelous story to be painted by a thousand imaginations. Here are a few:

Surely I wait for the Lord, who bends down to me and hears my cry. He puts a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God. In your plans for us, O Lord, my God, there is none to equal you. Your law is in my inner being. I do not restrain my lips when I sing of your righteousness; I do not hide your mercy or faithfulness. You are my help and my deliverer; my God, do not delay! (Psalm 40)

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