Yesterday (Saturday, March 25), was the Solemnity of the Annunciation. This feast commemorates the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to be the Mother of His Son. In the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Lk 1:26-38), we read about this angelic encounter. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and saluted her with these words: “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:28).
Mary was deeply disturbed by these words and was utterly confused by the salutation from heaven. The angel continued, “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God” (Lk 1:30). He went on to explain to Mary that God was asking her to be the Mother of the Messiah!
In her humility, the Blessed Virgin could not conceive of this possibility. Moreover, she had dedicated her virginity to God, and knowing that she could not break her promise, she was unable to comprehend how she could conceive a child. “How can this be, since I do not know man?” (Lk 1:34)
Yet the invitation was coming from God’s messenger! What could she do? Could she refuse God? It was a tremendous crisis for the devout young girl. In an act of complete faith and abandonment, Mary responded to Gabriel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). She left the entire dilemma in God’s hands. He, himself resolved the irresolvable! Through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived the Son of God in her womb and yet remained a virgin perpetually!
We call this mystery the Annunciation because the Angel announced this good news to Mary. We perpetuate it as the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. This event is also referred to as the mystery of the Incarnation, the sacred moment in which the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed a human nature when Mary consented.
From a practical perspective, we can observe that the Virgin Mary found herself in an irreconcilable quandary when she was approached by the Angel Gabriel. She considered herself unworthy to be the Mother of the Messiah. Neither could she comprehend how she might accept this role and yet be faithful to her vow of virginity. She was in a state of complete distress.
What did she do? She abandoned herself to God without reserve and left it to Him to resolve theconflict. This is precisely how we as Christians are to live; in a spirit of complete abandonment and trust to our merciful Father in every crisis and trial of life. We must let Him make all things work out unto good (Rom 8:28), according to His perfect wisdom. In this sense, we can say that Mary’s response is a perfect encapsulation of the Christian spiritual life: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say" (Lk 1:38).
O Mary, Mother of the Messiah, pray for us.
Fr. Tim Byerley
The days of both Fast and Abstinence during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The other Fridays of Lent are days of Abstinence.
On a day of Fast, only one (1) full meal is permitted. Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast.
On a day of Abstinence, no meat may be eaten. Those who have reached the age of 14 are obliged by the law of Abstinence.
The obligation to observe the laws of Fast and Abstinence "substantially" or as a whole is a serious obligation.
The Fridays of the year, outside of Lent, are designated as days of Penance, but each individual may substitute for the traditional abstinence from meat some other practice of voluntary self-denial as Penance.
The time for fulfilling the Paschal Precept (Easter Duty) extends from the First Sunday of Lent (March 5, 2017) to the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (June 11, 2017).