“All human wisdom is contained in these two words—Wait and Hope.” Alexandre Dumas’ masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo, concludes with this startling truth. But a question immediately presents itself: what are we waiting and hoping for? In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul provides an answer: “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (8:19). Humanity, along with the whole created order, is waiting for the saving and illuminating action of God Himself. Now, waiting implies an awareness of our own insufficiency, and an awareness of our own insufficiency is the first step toward humility and patience. Thus, even on a purely human level, there is a kind of wisdom or virtue in being open to the intervention of that which is beyond nature: the supernatural, or divine.
Today, in the person of a young Jewish girl, we see this human wisdom finally swept up into divine action. Today, at the Annunciation, humanity ends its waiting in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the one who knows that she cannot reach God through her own power. She is the one who patiently waits in the hope that God will fulfill His promises of salvation to Israel. And, beyond all expectation, the fruit of this hopeful waiting is nothing less than God Himself: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus … the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:31, 35). The Church, in the person of Mary, does not wait for any created reality, but for the almighty God.
The Annunciation is not only a salvific event, but also a theophany: a self-revelation of God. Scripture is full of theophanies, such as those to Moses and Elijah, but the Annunciation is a theophany of God as Trinity. In an unprecedented way, God now reveals Himself as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—for Gabriel is sent by the Father to tell Mary that she will bear the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. To each of these persons she is given the most intimate relationship imaginable. She is the Father’s perfect daughter; she is mother to the Son; and she is the spouse of the Spirit.
The Annunciation heralds the Incarnation, and the Incarnation heralds our salvation: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). God was born of a girl that He might die for life of the world. Thus, we look throught the Incarnation to the Crucifixion, through the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, and through the Resurrection to our own life in Christ. For the life that Christ gives us is His own. We who have died in Baptism live God’s own life. It is for this that all creation awaited the coming of God. Who could have guessed that God would do this? Who would have thought this was possible? But, as Gabriel declares, “for God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
The unimaginable generosity of God shown in the Annunciation and Incarnation required one thing: Mary’s assent. Reflecting on this mystery, St. Bernard of Clairvaux imagined the tension that creation felt in waiting for Mary’s response to the plan that the angel announced:
“If you consent, we shall immediately be set free. We all have been made in the eternal Word of God, and look, we are dying. In your brief reply we shall be restored and so brought back to life… My lady, say this word which earth and hell and heaven itself are waiting for. The very King and Lord of all, he who has so desired your beauty, is waiting anxiously for your answer and assent, by which he proposes to save the world. Him whom you pleased by your silence, you will please now even more by your word. If you let him hear your voice, then, he will let you see our salvation.”
Our Lady’s fiat, her “yes,” has resounded throughout two millennia, ever since she uttered that word that brought the Word into her body. Her yes is the yes of the whole Church. It is the yes that the saints continuously shout in Heaven. It is the yes that those in Purgatory yearn to proclaim more clearly. It is the yes that we struggle to say every day. It is the yes that God desires to hear at this very moment. Who are we to say no?
Image: Fra Angelico, Annunciation (The Latin is abbreviated from the Vulgate, Luke 1:35 and 38. Gabriel says, Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi; and Mary responds, Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.)