Detail of The Annunciation under the Arch with Lilies by Maurice Denis
In Luke 1:26-38, we hear the story of the Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Savior, and with great trust and joy Mary says yes, assenting with her fiat, which is Latin for "Let it be done." In this moment, the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes also the Blessed Mother.
The feast of the Annunciation is March 25 (exactly nine months before Christmas!).
There are many ways to observe this beautiful feast and draw closer to the mysteries of Mary’s fiat and God becoming man. Here are some of our favorites:
- Through art:
- There’s so much to meditate on in Helena Vurnik’s The Annunciation. Notice the overshadowing of the Dove, the Sacred Heart between it and Mary, her receptive hands that also seem to draw this mystery to herself, and the archangel’s priestly posture that brings to mind benediction and consecration in this moment of the Incarnation.
- The Annunciation under the Arch with Lilies by Maurice Denis (shown above) seems placed at the moment right after Mary’s fiat. Her whole body is in a posture of giving/receiving as she faces upward to heaven with an open hand, and the potted lily next to her reminds us of her perpetual virginity. The Archangel Gabriel is pulled back from Mary, leaving her in the center of the scene, and perhaps his turning away is in awe and reverence of the miracle he’s just witnessed. Even the architecture imparts an appropriate grandeur to the scene.
- Through hymns:
- “Gabriel’s Message” isn’t just for Christmastime!
- And the lyrics of "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky" bear reading a few times over.
- Through prayers:
- the Hail Mary
- the Angelus
- Through poetry:
- John Donne’s “Annunciation”
- Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe”
Inspired by Our Lady of the Annunciation, CORDA's Fiat candle has graceful scents of strawberry and acacia wood. The strawberry plant has long symbolized Our Lady, because it is uniquely in blossom and in fruit at the same time. The purity of the white strawberry blossoms point to Mary's perpetual virginity, and the strawberry fruit points to her child Jesus, the fruit of her womb.
In becoming the mother of God, Mary has become the new Ark of the Covenant, since she is carrying Our Lord in her very self. As we know from Jewish scripture, the original Ark of the Covenant was the place where God met man and dwelt with him (Exodus 25: 8, 22), and Mary is where God was made man and dwelt with us.
And just as the glory of the Lord descended and “overshadowed” the Old Testament Tabernacle, which holds the Ark of the Covenant, the “power of the Most High” descended and “overshadowed” Mary (Luke 1:35). “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2676).
At God’s own direction, the Ark was built completely out of acacia wood, which was prized for its incorruptibility. Significantly, when Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven, he recalled those who “have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven” (Munificentissimus Deus, 26).
There are so many more parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary! For further reading, I recommend Exodus 25, Luke 1, Revelation 11-12, and Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary by Brant Pitre.
Our Lady of the Annunciation, pray for us.