Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. —Luke 1:38
This year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord not on March 25 as per usual (exactly nine months before Christmas), but today, April 4. This is because March 25 fell on Good Friday this year, and the Solemnity of the Annunciation was pushed back until after the Easter Octave was completed. But there’s more to this shift than just a calendar conflict. The Annunciation is one of the most important events of our faith—without it, Christ would never have entered the world—and yet, when these two bookends of Jesus’s life fall on the same day, His Passion on Good Friday surpasses the Annunciation.
This is the only year in our lifetimes when Good Friday will fall on March 25, and it allows us to reflect more clearly on how Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation led her to the foot of the Cross. Her “yes” at the Annunciation was not just a yes to the Nativity; it was a yes to Good Friday, too—a package deal. It was a yes to an unknown road where she could expect great hardship and suffering; it was a yes on which the salvation of the whole world hinged; it was a yes to wherever God would lead her, even if that place was Calvary. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and posed the million-dollar question, God wanted to be sure that Mary would be responding to His call out of her own free will. Therefore, while she may not have known all the details to come, she knew well what the Scriptures said about the Messiah, and she knew the colossal weight of her decision before she made it. God granted her insight to understand both the great importance and the heavy burden of her fiat before she uttered it.
And she did indeed say yes. She said yes to welcoming Emmanuel—God with us—into the world, and to everything that entails. Because of her Immaculate Heart, Mary feels sorrows even more deeply than those of us born with original sin. Where we become numbed or jaded in regard to evil and wrongdoing, she is more sensitive in understanding the tragedy of our sin. Each time we sin and each time we suffer, Mary’s heart breaks for us. She constantly reaches out her arms to us, calling us back to her Son. Think about how much she gave up in her life for the sake of our salvation, and imagine how much more she is able to help us now, with the graces of the Beatific Vision in Heaven.
Mary’s fiat required her to give up a great deal, to suffer and sacrifice even though she was wholly innocent, to subject her most sensitive heart to the deepest of pains, to open her heart to our sorrows as her sons and daughters. But she still saw this as a “yes”—a yes to our salvation, a yes to her beloved Son, a yes to welcoming us as her adopted children. A yes to life, despite the messiness it brings. A yes to God’s will, even when it is beyond our understanding, even when it seems mysterious and frightening. A yes to the redeeming love that would give meaning to all our sorrows. A yes to trusting God instead of needing to be in control. Mary thanked God in every moment, glorifying His name in good times and in bad. She accepted everything as a gift from Him, even the terrible suffering and death of her innocent Son. Her joy and grief were always intertwined.
Mary, whose decision to accept God’s will changed the course of history and the salvation of the world, can help us in all the daily decisions of our lives to say yes to what is right instead of doing what is easy. She can help us to see our choices more clearly, to see the good that our yes will bring instead of being distracted by everything else, by the things we are required to say no to in order to make room for that yes. More than anything, she wants to help us. Her heart aches with love for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Mary, Co-Redemptrix, pray for us.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
1. Annunciation, Francesco Albani / PD-1923
2. Pietà, William-Adolphe Bouguereau / PD-1923
3. The Annunciation, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo / PD-1923