Today’s feast commemorates how God made known to a young Jewish woman that she was to be the mother of his Son, and how Mary accepted her vocation with perfect conformity of will. It has been said, “God made us without us, and redeemed us without us, but cannot save us without us.” Mary’s assent to Gabriel’s message opened the way for God to accomplish the salvation of the world. It is for this reason that all generations are to call her “blessed.”
The Annunciation has been a major theme in Christian art, in both East and West. Innumerable sermons and poems have been composed about it. The term coined by Cyril of Alexandria for the Blessed Virgin, Theotokos (“the God-bearer”), was affirmed by the General Council of Ephesus in 431.
Mary’s self-offering in response to God’s call has been compared to that of Abraham, the father of believers. Just as Abraham was called to be the father of the chosen people, and accepted his call, so Mary was called to be the mother of the faithful, the new Israel. She is God’s human agent in the mystery of the Incarnation. Her response to the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word,” is identical with the faith expressed in the prayer that Jesus taught, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, comparing Mary to the air we breathe, writes:
Wild air, world-mothering air . . .
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now,
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve,
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—