When I was an evangelical, one of the things that everyone kept harping about when conducting Bible studies or preaching or other forms of Christian education was that we had to apply the Bible to our lives. In time, I will perhaps blog more about this, especially when this came to a head when I was in college and I met people who were obsessed with Bill Gothard’s Institute for Biblical Life Principles.
On this Feast of the Annunciation, I want to begin to meditate on how I began turning Catholic, especially during this Great Fast as I relive my catechumenate. It is safe to say that while turning Byzantine was perhaps the best thing that happened to me especially in the way that I have found myself speaking of G-d (and thus doing theology), I am not without my Latin influences, most notably through the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, although as John Panteleimon Manoussakis (among others) notes, Balthasar is a very nice gateway into Orthodoxy indeed.
One of the things that struck me early on when I read Balthasar was his contemplation of Mary’s ‘yes,’ not only in his book on the Most Holy Theotokos, but in the opening of his book on Prayer. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, he notes that the Theotokos says to the angel. Be it done to me according to your word.
Meditating on this began to change a few things for me over time, especially with regard to my relation with the ‘word’ (the verbum). If the Most Holy Theotokos says that the word shall be done to her, there is also a passive element here, as Balthasar also points out – that it is not simply applying the speech of G-d to our lives, but that we as persons are created by the Word. As a Protestant, this struck me as something to which I could readily acquiesce, but the side effect of this meditation was that it brought the Most Holy Theotokos into my life, so much so that a Filipina nun once told me while I was still very Anglican that she saw the Virgin standing next to me in prayer.
I have much more to say about this, but as I blog about reliving my catechumenate and think about my relationships now with Protestants as an Eastern Catholic, this strikes me as something I should get down on this Feast of the Annunciation. I am thankful also that it was in this way – this meditation on the centrality of the Word that forms the ‘vibrant parish’ life of my church – that the Most Holy Theotokos entered into my life. And thus I sing:
To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feat of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride Unwedded!