Monday, August 22, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The First Joyful Mystery – The Annunciation

Scripture References

Luke 1:26-38; Isaiah 7:14

The Story in Brief

Mary was a young, but very holy, Nazarene girl. Most likely no one in her home town realized how holy she really was nor what her destiny would be. One day the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was perplexed at his greeting. He told her not to be afraid, that she was filled with grace and that the Lord was with her. He announced that she would bear a Son named Jesus, a Son Who would be the Son of the Most High and would reign over an unending Kingdom from the throne of David. Mary asked how this could be since she was a virgin. The angel had a ready answer. The Holy Spirit would come upon Mary, and the “power of the Most High” would overshadow her. Her child would be holy. Nothing was impossible for God, the angel concluded, for her relative Elizabeth had conceived a child in her old age. After hearing all this, Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She gave herself fully to God and offered her entire life to the fulfillment of His plan.

Points to Ponder

1. Nazareth in Galilee was an out of the way spot, and no one expected it to be so important in the life of the Messiah, but it has a suggestive name. Nazareth means “branch” or “watch, guard, or keep.” Meditate on the significance of Nazareth.

2. What was Mary doing when the angel appeared to her? I like to think that Mary was probably totally immersed in prayer. Try to imagine Mary at prayer.

3. The angel's greeting to Mary was literally “You who have been fully graced.” What does it mean to have been fully graced?

4. The angel told Mary, “The Lord is with you.” Remember that He is with all of us in a very intimate way.

5. Was Mary afraid? What was her reaction to the angel's greeting? Was she perplexed, pondering, wondering, a little fearful?

6. Wouldn't we all like to receive the reassurance that we have found favor with God?

7. The angel told Mary that she would be overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Look up Genesis 1 for a parallel here. A new creation was about to begin. Meditate on that new creation.

8. With the Annunciation, the promise of Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled. Ponder God's promises and their fulfillment.

9. The text places great emphasis on Mary's virginity; this conception was really a miracle. Think deeply about this miracle.

10. Did Mary understand what the angel was telling her? Did she know who her Son would be? I would answer yes because the immaculate Mary retained the gift of preternatural knowledge. She knew she was going to be the Mother of the Messiah, even the Mother of God. Reflect on this truth.

11. This passage offers several descriptive words and titles for Jesus: great, Son of the Most High, holy, Son of God, King ruling on the throne of David. Take some time to focus your attention on each of these words and titles.

12. Mary's question “How can this be?” stands in contrast to Zechariah's question “How will I know that this is so?” Mary's focus was not on herself but on what was going on. She believed what the angel told her, but she wanted to know the details because she was a virgin and she trusted that God wouldn't compromise the vow she had made. She wanted to know more about God's wonderful plan. Reflect on Mary's question and her reasons for asking it.

13. The angel told Mary that nothing will be impossible with God. What a marvelous reassurance! What does it mean that nothing will be impossible with God?

14. God waited for Mary's answer, and Mary was free to say yes or no as she willed. Ponder God's amazing respect for our freedom.

15. Mary surrendered herself totally to God and to His plan. She called herself His servant or handmaid. Meditate on what it means to be a servant of God who surrenders completely to Him.

16. The angel told Mary that her Son would reign forever, thereby offering a great promise, providing hope for the whole world, and foretelling a new kingdom. Reflect on Jesus' reign.

17. The angel gave Mary a sign by telling her about Elizabeth's pregnancy. Why did he do that?

18. The Son of God became incarnate as a small embryo in His mother's womb. Ponder this awesome mystery.

Application Questions

1. How does God send messengers to you in your life? Do you listen? How might you open your heart and your mind to hear God more clearly?

2. What is your response when you don't understand the message God has for you? Are you perplexed or frightened or both?

3. How is your prayer life? Are you ever totally immersed in prayer? How might you become more attentive and devoted in prayer?

4. How much do you value chastity in your life?

5. How is the Holy Spirit at work in your life?

6. Are you comfortable enough with God to ask Him questions? Do you believe that He will answer and listen closely for His response?

7. How can you be a faithful servant of the Lord?

8. In which areas of your life is God waiting for your “yes”?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – The Word became Man and dwelt among us. Lord, we bless You because in Your greatness You descended to take on our human weakness in everything except sin. We bow our heads in humble silence before You. Please fill our hearts with Your love.

Praise – We praise You, Lord, because You came to save us. You are so powerful yet You became a small embryo in Your mother's womb because You love us that much. You are awesome God, in the truest sense of the word.

Thanksgiving – We thank You, Lord, for coming among us as a human being. We thank You for loving us that much, so much that You became the weakest and most dependent of beings that one day You might bring us to an intimate share in divine life.

Intercession – We lift up to You in prayer, Lord, all those who find themselves in difficult situations, all those who are struggling to say “yes” to God in their lives, and all those who are being called by God for a special vocation.

Petition – Open our hearts, Lord, to Your message for our lives and give us the courage to say “yes” to You and to be Your faithful servants.

Quotes from the Saints

“To the virgin Mary was sent, not any one of the angels, but the archangel Gabriel; for upon this service it was meet that the highest angel should come, as being the bearer of the highest of all tidings. He is therefore marked by a particular name, to signify what was his effectual part in the work. For Gabriel is interpreted, "the strength of God." By the strength of God then was He to be announced Who was coming as the God of strength, and mighty in battle, to put down the powers of the air.” - St. Gregory the Great

“And it is well said, Full of grace, for to others, grace comes in part; into Mary at once the fullness of grace wholly infused itself. She truly is full of grace through whom has been poured forth upon every creature the abundant rain of the Holy Spirit. But already He was with the Virgin Who sent the angel to the Virgin. The Lord preceded His messenger, for He could not be confined by place Who dwells in all places. Whence it follows, The Lord is with you.” - St. Jerome

“She wondered also at the new form of blessing, unheard of before, reserved for Mary alone.” - St. Ambrose

“But he who earns favor in the sight of God has nothing to fear. Hence it follows, For you have found favor before God. But how shall any one find it, except through the means of his humility. For God gives grace to the humble.” - St. John Chrysostom

“It was Mary's part neither to refuse belief in the Angel, nor too hastily take to herself the divine message. How subdued her answer is, compared with the words of the Priest. Then said Mary to the Angel, How shall this be? She says, How shall this be? He answers, Whereby shall I know this? He refuses to believe that which he says he does not know, and seeks as it were still further authority for belief. She avows herself willing to do that which she doubts not will be done, but how, she is anxious to know. Mary had read, Behold, she shall conceive and bear a son. She believed therefore that it should be but how it was to take place she had never read, for even to so great a prophet this had not been revealed. So great a mystery was not to be divulged by the mouth of man, but of an Angel.” - St. Ambrose

“Behold now the humility, the devotion of the virgin. For it follows, But Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. She calls herself His handmaid, who is chosen to be His mother, so far was she from being exalted by the sudden promise. At the same time also by calling herself handmaid, she claimed to herself in no other way the prerogative of such great grace than that she might do what was commanded her. For about to bring forth One meek and lowly, she was bound herself to show forth lowliness. As it follows, Be it to me according to your word. You have her submission, you see her wish. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, signifies the readiness of duty. Be it to me according to your word, the conception of the wish.” - St. Ambrose

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