By the Rev. Joe Hensley, St. George’s Episcopal Church
Fredericksburg, VA | March 26, 2015
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation. It’s nine months before Christmas. I explained this to my daughter, and her response was, “Wow, so Mary meets the angel this week and Jesus dies next week?!” It’s a bit of whiplash to be reminded in the midst of Lent, on the verge of Holy Week, that Jesus’ life miraculously began in Mary’s womb. It seems harsh to hear Gabriel address Mary as “favored one” when we know that next week Jesus will speak to his mother from the cross. What kind of favor is it to endure the torturous execution of an innocent son?
It reminds us that God’s favor, God’s grace, is not measured in earthly terms. Mary is not spared agony or suffering; she isn’t granted any favors. Her favor is measured in terms of devotion. Her devotion enables her to bear the son of God, raise him, and watch him die. Her love is so profound, that no wonder Christians look to Mary as a shining example.
One of my favorite hymns of Holy Week is the “Stabat Mater dolorosa,” the last verse of which reads: “Jesus, may her [Mary’s] deep devotion stir in me the same emotion, Fount of love, Redeemer kind; that my heart fresh ardor gaining, and such a purer love attaining, may with thee acceptance find.”
This feast is our occasion to ask for the prayers of Mary and all the saints that we might receive such grace and favor which Mary received. May we have adoring hearts conceived within us, so that we may say in sorrow or joy with the mother of Jesus: “Let it be with me according to your word.”