Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have not known a man?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Luke 1:34-35
Grow quiet and still. Open your mind and heart to this image, to the Scripture, to the divine Presence. As you gaze, what do you see? What do you feel? Can you sense an invitation to you from the Spirit? What might it be?
The uniqueness of this painting is the great stream of light pouring its rays through an open window. There is a tiny dove in it, but so small and so caught in the wave of light that it seems insignificant. The light is entering from outside the house, streaming across the room, and landing at the location of Mary’s heart. Usually in these paintings, all the pertinent action takes place inside the house. But here, something coming from the outside world joins and illumines the inside one. This can remind us of a truth in the Annunciation story that we seldom consider.
We think of this encounter as being about Mary. The event is personal, intimate, private. What we forget is that it is also a story about the world. The world’s need for reconciliation, justice, compassion, love, and union with God is the background of it all, and the light that falls on Mary is the light of invitation to give herself toward making the world right. The space between Gabriel and Mary is invisibly crowded with human need. When she consents to bear Jesus, she is agreeing to be an instrument of justice, of peace, of healing, of reconciling love. The light that shines on her is streaming from her world outside. The divine gift to her and to us is for the sake of that world.
This, too, is the Holy Spirit’s work. God’s unbounded Spirit ranges everywhere, for all people and cultures and circumstances. From the beginning, the Holy Spirit pushed the disciples of Jesus out of the house and empowered them to engage the wide world with good news. When God says to us what Gabriel said to Mary—“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”—it is a promise bearing a command: to do our part in the Spirit’s power to help in the healing of the world. When Mary said Yes, it wasn’t just to God, it was to the world. The world still waits for more of us to say the same.
Spirit of all the world’s hope for liberation, enlarge our vision of what we are called to be and to do, moved and empowered by your outreaching love for all. Amen.