Solemnity of the Annunciation at Mississippi Abbey

[Scripture Readings: Is 7:10-14; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38 ]

We have a unique timing of the gospel's this year. Yesterday we heard how the gospel story ends; today we hear how it begins.

“REJOICE” is the key word in this gospel. Pope-emeritus Benedict says that with this greeting to Mary the New Testament begins. “Rejoice” is a word we heard in yesterday's gospel; it was the reaction of the disciples when they saw the Risen Christ in their midst and experienced His forgiveness. In both stories, “rejoice” is the reaction to the announcement of new life. Gabriel used the Greek word chaire to show that this occasion for joy was not just for Israel, but for all.

The joyous occasion began with Mary's empty womb and open heart. Then the power of the Most High overshadowed her. From there it was similar to any conception of new life: That new life is generated by an act of giving and receiving. The giving and receiving is done unselfishly; for the good of the other is the good for oneself and someone else, a baby and all humanity, is the greatest beneficiary.

This unselfish act is commonly called “making love.” St. Bernard says love causes us to act willingly. When we act willingly we are converted. The thing converted is our consent. It is Mary's consent, motivated by love that we celebrate today. It highlights the importance of our consent in our daily relationship to God. The love, willingness, and consent of the act of conception are the paradigm for friendship with God and with one another.

Benevolence, mutuality, and sharing constitute friendship. The act of begetting new life is the primal and optimal example of these elements. This is why the Church has always been so protective of the authenticity of the marital act. This is why St. Bernard saw it as the authentic model of the monastic's relationship with God. These three elements of friendship, Benevolence, mutuality, and sharing, are the elements of pro-existence, of living for the good of the other and discovering therein one's own good. It only awaits our consent. And when it is given it is an occasion to rejoice. That is the essence of friendship, and of what it is like to be a Christian … on the inside.