Thursday, March 25, 2010


Luke 1:26-38

I find the sights and smells of spring breathtaking.  In some ways the fresh colors seem contrary to the stillness and darkness of Lent; perhaps, though, there is no better image of the Lenten journey than the slow stretching of a seed toward the sun.

There is one very special flowering, in fact, that nearly always falls within the season of Lent.  It is a breathtaking scene of an angel, an invitation, and a young girl who said yes, here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

Today is March 25th, nine months to the day before Christmas.  It is the Feast of the Annunciation, the day when heaven and earth mingled in Mary's yes, when a seed was planted in deep darkness and began at once to grow.  The life Mary bore was as new as that spring morning, and yet was the very Creator of every spring that ever was.  Literally full of grace, Mary became theotokos, which is Greek for God-bearer.

How often in her life would Mary breathlessly wonder if she had made the right choice?  Her yes could have cost her marriage, even her life.  The child she loved so dearly would leave her home.  How the air itself must have trembled as Mary was filled with the sights and sounds of his death on a cross when spring, for a time, turned dark and still.

Being a God-bearer, it seems, does not make life easy or vanish pain.  But Gabriel's words always echoed in Mary's pierced and wondering heart - Favored One, he had said, Favored One, God is with you.  And so, though it made her tremble, Mary whispered yes again and again.

Death and darkness would not be the final word.  God would shout a glorious no!  Love would be stronger than fear, life stronger than death, and so it is that now the risen Son stretches his arms toward us with a breathtaking invitation that we become God-bearers.  You, favored one.  You, full of grace.  You, me, all of us, God-bearers.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem comparing Mary to the air we breathe.  "Wild air," he wrote, "World-mothering air...of her flesh he took flesh: He does take...though much mystery how, not flesh but spirit now, and makes, O marvelous! new Nazareths in us, where she shall yet conceive Him, morning, noon and eve..."

What a lovely annunciation, this time ours, our invitation to allow heaven and earth to mingle in us, to bear Christ in the world in our own unique and marvelous ways.  In the season of Lent, we are called to come to terms with the ways in which we have said no to God's invitations.  Trembling, we take all our no's to the cross where Jesus, full of grace, replaces them with perfect, forgiving, transforming, life-stretching Love, God's eternal yes.  Amen.

Artwork: "Annunciation," by Daniel Bonnell; "Annunciation," by Macha Chmakoff; "Annuncation," by Ruth Tietjen Councell. 

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