The Mother of God by Bishop Robert Barron

As we near the feast of Christmas, we return to the beautiful and familiar Gospel story of the Annunciation as told in Luke. The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary, betrothed to Joseph. Now angels might strike us as romantic figures, but, judging from the typical reaction to them in the biblical narratives, they are frightening, disorienting, and unnerving. Mary, we hear, was “deeply troubled” by the appearance of the angel.

Who wants his ordinary routine interrupted, his ordinary manner of imagining and seeing undermined? The breakthrough of the supernatural into the natural is always a bouleversement, a turning upside down.

And then the terrible words: “You shall conceive and bear a son…Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High.” And all of this without aid of a man. She must have sensed, right away, how this would appear, first to Joseph and then to anyone else: that she had been unfaithful.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God.” Now we, after many centuries of Christianity, take these words for granted. How must they have sounded to Mary? Would she have had any clear idea what they meant and what they entailed? To be overshadowed, invaded, and controlled utterly by a power beyond one’s imagining.

And did she have any clear sense that this pregnancy and birth would result in the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt, a participation in the passion and death of her only son? Could she have seen any of it? None of this could have been part of Mary’s plan. Yet she says, “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.”

The German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart saw something with great clarity—every Christian has the vocation of Mary, to bring Christ to birth. We each do this in our own way and style, according to the exigencies of our unique vocation. But we do this, he saw, the same way Mary did: by abandoning our projects and plans, our sense of the good life, and acquiescing to God’s purpose working through us.

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Oh Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, I believe in you; help my faith to grow stronger. Help me to appreciate the importance of this revelation, that your flesh is really my food and that your blood is really my drink. In these last few days before Christmas, help me to appreciate more than ever the fact of your presence near us.

-from A Eucharistic Christmas