“I am the Lord, there is no other; I form the light and create the darkness; I make well-being and create woe; I, the Lord, do all these things. Let justice desend, O heaven, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I the Lord have created this.” – Isaiah 45;7-8
As we head into evening, we prepare for tomorrow’s solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This is moment of such profound import that Catholics are called to remember it every day, in the prayer of the Angelus: “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.”
We spend what other Christians must consider an inordinate amount of time in contemplation of this moment because it is important, deeply mysterious and wonder-full; this is the moment that the Creator, having seen his creation become broken through disobedience, and perhaps fear, and then compound its own fracturing with fault and failing upon fault and failing, in each succeeding generation (even unto today) called Mary, his pristine vessel, to his service and she responded “yes.” It is the moment that begins the wind-down of humanity back to Eden. Mary’s freely-given fiat to God begins to heal the shattering wrought by Eve’s freely-given “yes” to the serpent.
When my children were little, I explained it like this: When Eve said “yes” to the serpent, it was like the Big Bang Theory, only applied to the spiritual, not the material. Eve chose distance from God, and just as the Big Bang sent the planets outward — and the world and all space are still moving outward, even now, away from the the point of origin — her sin created a moving outward-and-away from God and his purity and perfection. Spiritually we have been expanding outward ever since, just like the planets.
He has been calling us back, ever since, but in the Annunciation we see the moment where God begins the process of restoring all things in Christ, and it is fascinating to consider; it demonstrates on a very fundamental level the mercy of God, who — rather than washing his hands of us — gives us another chance. If human free-will assisted in the break, it was also going to be permitted, nay, required to assist in the restoration.
This is a kiss between heaven and earth that leads, eventually, to a marriage between bridegroom and bride, consummated in the blood of the cross, and made fruitful in the resurrection. The whole glorious pageant begins here:
If we think back to those lines from Genesis, and John, we can almost consider Mary-in-utero to be a sort of mirror of the quiescent “nothing” that existed before Creation. A created creature, loved into being and marked by grace, lies waiting to be born. She lives and grows obscurely, still this model of quiescence.
Then there is movement. God stirs, but this time, instead of saying, “Let there be…(light, etc)” it is the created creature who says the Word as she utters her Fiat. “Yes,” she says, “let it be…”
The words of Creation, of positive assent, affirmation, words that permit life rather than refuse. Thus creature co-operates with creator and there comes a second, more muted, but not discreet “big bang” (what’s discreet about angels, shepherds and kings?) and the world is made anew. New Creation. New Creatures.
From the stillpoint “nothing” of Mary’s physical and spiritual blank sheet, comes . . . the rest of the story. Salvation. Return. The Way back to where we started.
Sometimes, when people discuss “end times” and eschatology, particularly if they wonder about earthquakes and tsunamis and war and nuclear annihilation — basically when they’re reading the headlines — and wondering to each other, “what is going on?” and “Could it be…?” I imagine that the “end” is just a fast-reverse of all of the brokenness that occurred before Christ’s death and Resurrection — time and creation winding down like a filmspool, back to that moment, when the veil was torn, and Satan’s defeat was locked in. The Big Bang of Christ goes out, spreads out through the ages, and brings everything back to Him, back to that moment, and then “it is finished.” Everything made whole and perfect once more.It’s an unsophisticated eschatology, of course, but God being outside of time, and all mysteries being connected at labyrinthine depths to which we only guess, I’ll keep pondering it and entertaining myself with it, as I have been since a retreat two years ago, where I learned:
“Everything” is about nothing.
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
Taping a couple new episodes of “In the Arena” this week, one of them was about “end times,” and one of the panelists — I think it was Msgr. Kieran Harrington — made a point that there is mercy, but also “justice,” and that even within God’s unfathomable mercy, there must be acknowledgment that we, in many ways, are living in complete opposition to what he has told us is the Way.
I confess, having read that Isaiah quote in light of the headlines, I am giving his point more consideration today than I did. Is it justice dropping gently down upon us out of Fukushima, justice opening up the earth?
Truly, we do not know. We cannot know. But we know the Savior has bud forth, beginning with this moment we celebrate beginning with first Vespers of the Annunciation:
Antiphon I: A shoot will spring forth from the stock of Jesse, and a flower will blossom from his root. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.
Antiphon II: The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will reign for ever.
Antiphon III: The eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, today emptied himself for our sake and became man.
Reading: 1 John 1:1-2
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, Mary; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Canticle of Mary, Luke 1:46-55
God our Father, your Word became man and was born of the Virgin Mary. May we become more like Jesus Christ, whom we acknowledge as our redeemer, God and man. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Fr. James Martin, S.J. in the Washington Post
Deacon Greg Kandra
Sr. Lisa Doty
Deacon Keith Fournier
Whispers in the Loggia
Moniales; Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation
In Jesus, God has placed, in the midst of barren, desparing mankind, a new beginning which is not a product of human history, but a gift from above. – Pope Benedict XVI (source, Magnificat Magazine)