Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent Luke 1:26-38, Ancilla Domini

The angel appears to Mary

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Comments: This passage is called the Annunciation. It has never occurred to me before but the angel of the Lord tells Mary that she is pregnant. There is nothing in this passage that says that Mary had any opportunity to refuse this child. Women before the pill really didn’t have much say in whether they were going to conceive or not. They sometimes had some say in having intercourse, but women never have had much say about whether they were going to conceive until recently. Mary asks how this can be—she knows the facts of life. She also hears that her relative, Elizabeth is also pregnant. Such happening out of the normal course of life! But “nothing will be impossible with God” the angel says.

I am not taken so much by the miracles of conception as by Mary’s response—“I am the servant of the Lord.” In Latin it is Ancilla Domini. The word in Greek is slave. To be an agent of God must I be a slave? Sometimes it feels like that. But most of the time I have the right to say no. But Mary didn’t. She accepted her role in the salvation of the world without much fuss or self-examination. Ancilla Domini.

All too often when situations arise over which we have no control, we are often overcome by them. By accepting the situation as it is, and then being about God’s work is what makes the situation take on the likeness of salvific work. I have no control over the weather—I just have to go with it. Ancilla Domini.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An interesting topic for reflection - living a life in which pregnancy was (is - for many still) as much the normal course of women's life as getting breasts or menstruating - part of the uncontrollable fate of our bodies.

How do we live with what we can't control? How do we find and celebrate the Divine in what we can't understand - or don't always like?

Certainly the tradition shows us Mary in full acceptance of her opportunity to nurture and birth Christ into the world. Perhaps if we felt more acutely that our works were part of birthing the Light into the world...