Today is the day in the calendars of most denominations of Christianity that the Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated. If you’ve not come across this feast day before, this Troparion (or hymn) from the Orthodox tradition will explain its significance:
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”
The messages and lessons held within this event are extensive. With this one event, found in both Matthew and Luke, we are taught that God has a plan for each of us, that God’s angels are His messengers on Earth, that God is willing to take birth and incarnate for the salvation of all, that Mary submitted to the will of God regardless of the cost to herself and that all things are possible to God.
The Angel Gabriel, speaking to Mary about God’s plans for her, and her acceptance of those plans is an incredible thing. Thinking about this reminded me of Mother Teresa. It is impossible to deny that Mother Teresa aimed to put the Gospel into practice throughout her life, and she is internationally revered for this. But she wrote to a friend of hers, Rev. Michael van der Peet, in 1979 about the absence of God in her life. In an article on this, Time Magazine said, ‘That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain.’
(Read the article here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720,00.html#ixzz1q9SiAYqx)
There seems to be something familiar in this: Mary accepted the role of mother to God incarnate and thereafter was left almost entirely alone (on the surface, anyway!), and Mother Teresa took up her calling to help the poor of Calcutta and was then left bereft of the presence of God we might assume she felt.
The article linked above gives an incredible insight into the suffering Mother Teresa underwent during her lifetime. Is that the same suffering that Mary underwent, particularly during her pregnancy? And most importantly, is it that suffering which we all feel sometimes, regardless of our faith or background? Is the role of Mary and the Annunciation to encourage us to believe even when we feel like we’ve lost all faith? As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars’. Can we learn to rejoice in our doubt as we rejoice in our faith? Surely the despair of a believer who’s lost their faith is testament to unshakable certainty that God is there, holding them in His arms and keeping them safe.
If Mary had not taken the leap of faith to carry the Son of God, we may not have known Him. If Mother Teresa had not kept on working to help and heal the poor, we would have lost an icon for Christian goodness and kindness. If we shy away from what we feel God is calling us to do, what will be lose?
This is the message that the Annunciation is bringing me this year – that God is there for us whether we recognise it or not. And if we can just learn to become His instrument, we can be everything that He made us to be.
This beautiful song is my offering to you on this blessed day. May you meet with God today and feel His arms around you.