A bit about obedience and submission
Few of us don’t like to think about submission, let alone humble obedience. The word obedience conjures up images of dog school training or boot camp. On the surface it appears to be a harsh term that suggests restriction of our individual freedom and independence. But if one were to think about it, obedience usually serves a higher purpose, focuses on the future, and usually leads to greater freedom. A dog properly trained can have free reign of the house and yard. A person who participates in boot camp learns how to serve in order to preserve the liberties of one’s country. Children fare better when they are in a loving environment that provides structure. Of course this is all true if the submission serves a benevolent purpose and is life-giving. One can probably think of instances where submission did not have a good result, such as in Nazi, Germany. So a measure of prudence and discernment is necessary.
When I began my blog back during the season of Advent, the scripture for that day contained the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Fiat. The Scripture for today, which happens to be the Annunciation of the Lord, also contains this Fiat. In summary, Mary’s Fiat was her humble obedience to God’s plan for her to become the Mother of Jesus. It is the earth-shattering moment that Mary says yes to God who is good. In the Gospel of Luke she states:
Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Annunciation is significant for the Church
The Annunciation is a significant time in the Church because it marks the moment of the Incarnation. Today is all about humility and life. Humility is essentially accepting God’s will in our life. It is not always easy to go along with the game plan. Often on the surface, a situation may not appear like it is going to work out. Not everyone likes to be put on the level of servant or handmaiden. Accepting God’s will requires making a leap of faith, humble obedience, and discernment. Most of all it requires great grace from God.
Following God’s will isn’t easy
The Blessed Virgin Mary could have chosen to say no to God’s plan. But she knew God was good, as she had the singular grace of being free from sin. This is why the Catholic Church refers to her as the Immaculate Conception. She was full of grace as is evidenced from the announcement by the Angel Gabriel: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!
The announcement of her being miraculously impregnated by the Holy Spirit must have been a startling situation, to put it mildly. Everything hinged on Mary’s response to Angel Gabriel’s question of whether or not she would be willing to participate in God’s plan. She knew that her decision involved undertaking a great sacrifice and going outside of her own level of comfort. But she was willing to cooperate in serving a function that was life-giving biologically and spiritually.
What about our own lives?
Without doubt, each and every one of us remembers a time in our lives when we were faced with a situation and we needed to make a decision. Or we might be in the middle of one now. Such decisions, in order to serve a higher good, are not easy because they usually involve great sacrifice. One example that is a good parallel to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy. The higher good is always for life, even if it is inconvenient. This is why Mary is the patroness of the unborn and mothers. The Church always stands for life from womb to the tomb. One friend of mine wrote on Facebook, “Today’s gift: fall in love with life.”
A famous painting in Florence
A famous fresco painting of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico appears in the Monastery of San Marco in Florence, Italy. My family and I had the opportunity to tour this monastery a couple of years ago. I actually did not know that this painting was in this monastery until I was literally bowled over with awe when I encountered it at the top of the stairs on the first floor of the dormitory. I had to pinch myself to check to see if I was not dreaming at having the opportunity to see this great masterpiece which was painted sometime between 1438-1445. I included a copy of it at the top of this blog.
March 25 is known as the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord unless it happens to fall on a Sunday in Lent. So this year it is observed on Monday March 26.