“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you – in the fullness of his eternity, you?” – Martin Buber
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, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – Luke 1:26-28
Become quiet and still. Open your heart to this moment, to this image, to this Scripture, to God. Take your time. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you sense is God’s invitation to you?
At the end of the week, we now circle back to where we began. The greeting. The blessing. The beginning of encounter. Hail! But the angel’s blessing of the young woman doesn’t end with this joyful word. His greeting also names her identity: favored one. The words are meant for her specifically, but they are ours, too. We are nothing less than God’s favored ones. The Lord is with us, too.
In Fra Angelico’s rendering, the angel and the girl could well be siblings. Apart from the angel’s magnificent multi-colored wings, their features are quite similar. In the South, we would actually say they “favor” each other, by which we would mean not that they prefer each other but that they resemble each other. They look like they come from the same family – the hair, the skin, the pink on their cheeks, even their hands – except that she is larger than he is. They hold their heads, their bodies, and their arms the same. They are mirroring each other, a sign of agreement.
The holy kneels on the threshold of the earthly, and we discover their resemblance. In traditional interpretations of the annunciation, much is made of Mary’s purity, her worthiness to be chosen for this purpose, to bring forth the redemption of the world. Less is made of this: we were all created good, bearing God’s image. God draws near to us not because we are pure but because we are favored. We are cherished by God, chosen by God, because God deeply loves and values us. God wants encounter with us. God wants relationship with us.
Martin Buber said, “In the beginning was the relationship.” But we turned away and we keep turning away. We are afraid. We are self-protective. We are self-interested. We struggle to believe we are worthy or valued or valuable or favored. Or safe. Or loved.
In the incarnation, God shows us precisely how much we are loved. But before there was that, there was this: the encounter. The annunciation. The holy bowed to the human and said: You. Hail, favored one! Our transformation starts with receiving those words. The journey from one who is loved by God to one who knows she is loved by God to one who births the love of God into the world starts here. Now. With you.
Practice approaching God and others with the assumption that you are already loved, accepted, valued, okay, enough. Practice offering that same love, acceptance, and validation to others.
God, you love me and your presence is with me. Help me to trust that truth and to live like it.