Feast of the Annunciation
Celebrated on March 25th
In both the East and West, Mary is the most important of saints - although little is known of her life. St Matthew describes how, when the angel Gabriel came to her and said: “Hail favoured one, the Lord is with you” - she replied simply: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be be done unto me according to your word.”
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
It was on this occasion that Mary sang the Magnificat: My soul glorifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…
The next mention of Mary in the New Testament comes when St Luke recounts the family’s journey to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve. Mary, he says, kept everything she saw and learnt of her son in her heart.
From time to time, Mary is mentioned during Jesus’ public ministry.
At the wedding feast, she urges her son to do something when the wine runs out early.
At the crucifixion, according to St John, as Mary stood by the apostle watching her son die, Jesus said to her: “Behold your son,” and to John: “Behold your mother.” From that hour the disciple looked after Mary in his own home.
The last mention of Mary in the New Testament, is in the Acts when we learn that she was with the disciples at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them all.
Many ancient traditions of the church glorify Mary, in particular by speaking of her lifelong virginity and her assumption into heaven.
A Carthusian wrote: 'Mary possessed the grace of gentleness to an exceptional degree. Gentleness is the summing-up of all the Christian virtues; it consists, above all, of respect for all animate beings; since one who is gentle is gentle towards all living things. And this, because in its root it derives from harmony with the will of God under all its forms, a tender acquiescence in all that is. It is also the prime requisite for all who long to clarify their inward vision. There is no contemplative life without infinite patience; light only penetrates souls at rest. Tranquillity is the first disposition necessary then, if the depths of the soul are to become translucent. The art of contemplating divine truths is the art of remaining still.
'Gentleness is the quality of a forgiving and merciful soul, and is inseparable from true intellectual insight. When the mind is purified and sees all being in their proper light, it cannot be but confident and loving.
‘St John of the Cross once said how essential kindness is for all interior progress. Our vocation is truly virginal and a mirror of Mary’s. She had no need to condemn the world. It was the world that broke its strength against her graciousness.’
From: ‘The Prayer of Love and Silence.’ Darton, Longman and Todd, 1962