The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called 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.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘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. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’
And the angel left her.
Last year I considered this last sentence with a sense of abandonment - that Gabriel was somehow uncomfortable with this messenger business and, once getting his 'yes', was eager to return home; mission completed. Last year, maybe, my soul sighed at my lack of romance.
'God's beauty, too, surrender seeks and takes in the will's lull
whatever lets itself be changed into the beautiful'
Gabriel has just spoken for his Lord, spoken words of endearment, of desire, of promise -
the Bridegroom waiting anxiously for an answer in the antechamber of eternity - the eternity that this seemingly ordinary, young woman holds in her hand.
Mary has said 'Yes' -
not 'I'll think about it',
or 'it's just there's this other guy...'
or 'you do know I am likely to get stoned to death....'
but 'Yes - I am His and whatever He asks, my answer will be Yes because I am His.'
And the fulfillment of this promise is that Mary is 'overshadowed' by the Holy Spirit.
Can you imagine in God the delight, the gratefulness and,if it could be imagined, the impatience of a bridgegroom?
Can you imagine then as the mystics have tried to describe in their own experiences, knowing God's Love that physically; that uttterly; that intimately? So intimately that a spark of Life is created deep in the shadows; in the life-giving sacred space within you?
No wonder Gabriel got out of the way.