v. 30. The angel said to her: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour.
Mary’s fear is the amazement of all little ones who are surprised at being the object of attention from someone important. And if this someone is God, how great then is that fear? So great that one feels one’s utter smallness and that one has everything from the free gift of love.
v. 31. You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.
The divine plan is revealed: to conceive and bring to light and to name him. The Saviour is already there, in the words of the angel. How wonderful! Centuries and centuries of waiting are fulfilled in these two syllables: Jesus.
v. 32-33. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord god will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.
When the Lord approaches a person to call that person to take participate in his thoughts of redemption, he does so completely. What remains still obscure is the manner of the human cooperation, because the person remains free to concretise the fulfilment of God’s thought. The point of departure is: an “unforeseen” son. The destination is: the Son of the Most High, who will sit on the throne of David and will reign forever. The means for accomplishing this is your person. Now it is up to you to become the protagonist.
v. 34. Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?’
Mary asks of the angel the how of the fulfilment of the will of God. She does not doubt God, she knows that the Word pronounced by God is always possible. The how is what concerns her, what she is being called to be. She is certain that her desire and intention of not “knowing man” will continue, because God does not cancel the plans of his children, drawn up by their most authentic desires. She knows that her plan will fit into the plan just heard. But she does not know how it will happen. And so she simply asks to do exactly what has been asked of her.
v. 35. The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come down upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God’.
The angel explains. Mary will simply have to accept, because it will be the Spirit who will descend in her, it will be the Most High who will overshadow her, and the Holy one will be born.
vv. 36-37. And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.
The experience of Elizabeth told by the angel to Mary is nothing more than an occasion of connecting with history. Mary must have already known of Elizabeth, because both were preparing the way for the fulfilment of promise made to Israel: John the voice, Jesus the spouse. It is the same project.
v. 38. Mary said, ‘You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said.’ And the angel left her.
Mary’s reply is essential: Here I am. Her concentration on the Word pronounced to her is so great that she can only feel that she is a “servant”, a useful instrument in the concrete realisation of the will of the Father. Let it happen to me… this is nothing like a passive yes, it is a yes aware of the greatness of her involvement, a yes so deep that it brings forth the face of God in human features.
Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum! Behold… This word is essential and full of life. No words are better suited to humankind than this being present, awake, holding one’s breath so as not to lose anything of what the mystery is sharing of Himself. Let it happen… God’s choice is worthy of acceptance, but requires the deep silence of one’s whole being, let it happen to me… Mary knows that she is not the protagonist, but the servant of the divine will; she belongs to the group of servants that Jesus will call friends: a servant does not know what his master does. But friends do know. Whatsoever I have heard from my Father I have revealed to you. The shadow of the Spirit that covers the tent of the presence on such a beautiful creature for her availability, will whisper the mysterious secrets of the Eternal. And the times that go on tracing new ways of grace will come to their peak when the Son of God will see the light of an infinitely small space for his power, the space of limitation and contingency. Mary, first cradle of the ineffable Word, first embrace of the coming light, has no other treasure than her humility; a hollow that receives the fullness, smallness that is called infinite, limited love that demands the embrace of the infinite.