The Annunciation – God is With Us
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothes her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist -- no one dared resist him. But would she love him? She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind. Would she be happy at his side? How could he know?
If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared loved cross over the gulf between them.
For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal. The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him. It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on. He renounced the throne to win her hand.
Today, on the great feast of the Annunciation, we remember how God Himself descended from the heights of heaven to come and dwell among us. The eternal and almighty Creator of the Universe left His glory and became man, only because He wants us to understand how much He loves us. He loves us so much, in fact, that He willingly came to save us from the fallen world in which we live.
One of the hymns of today said, “How shall He whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is the earth be held in the womb of a woman? ... He who cannot be contained is contained.... The creator becomes a creation.... God self-emptied himself because of his compassion and love for humanity.”
What an incomprehensible mystery – the Creator of the universe entering inside the womb of a young virgin, becoming a helpless child, and putting on the humility of humanity. And yet, as strange and incomprehensible as this miracle sounds, we must remember the Archangel Gabriel’s words to the Virgin Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” When God so wishes, even the order of nature is overcome.
And through this great condescension, “Our restoration is now made manifest to us: God is ineffably united to humanity and the world is freed from the ancient curse of death.”
Today on this feast of the Annunciation, we witness the BEGINNING of our salvation. The salvific work of Christ was a process, which began when God entered into the womb of the Virgin Mary, continued throughout His life as the Teacher of wisdom and the Wonderworker of miracles, and ended with His victory through His Passion, Cross, Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon His followers.
In three weeks, we’ll enter Holy Week and focus on the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Although these events are the most important and earth-shattering events of history, the process of salvation begins today, on the day when Christ enters into the fallen world, takes his place among his creation and begins the restoration of fallen humanity.
Today’s feast of the Annunciation reminds us that we are not alone in this harsh world. God has not forgotten us or abandoned us. We do not need to face the mystery of life, with all its struggles and uncertainties, by ourselves. For God is with us!
As we hear all the uncertain, disheartening, and frightful news of the coronavirus and think about all the devastating social and financial consequences this virus will leave behind, we will witness much suffering, pain, sorrow, tragedy. To balance the ‘bad news’ of these days, today we remember Good News. The Annunciation announces that God has come in our midst. God has entered into this troubled world to participate and transform our suffering, sorrow, and despair. We do not believe in a God who lives far away in the heavens. But we believe in a God who is near us, ready to help us!
St. Paul explains it this way: “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16)
What greater message can we proclaim than to know that the Almighty Creator of the universe lived among us, experienced life as we know it, faced the same temptations and dangers, felt abandoned and rejected by the world, and yet overcame the world! As our Lord Jesus comforted his followers, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
In others words, God has completely identified with our human nature. In the end, however, He not only participated in our humanity, but lifted up our fallen human nature and allowed it to participate in His divinity! A life in Christ offers us His ultimate victory over all pain, suffering, despair and evil, even allowing us to unite with Him in his eternal glory.
We all need to remember this Good News again and again. If we wait for good news from politicians or ideologies, we’ll only find disappointment. As the Psalmist says so beautifully: “Do not put your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth, and on that very day their plans perish.” Our only and sure hope is in God Himself!
And that is the message of the Annunciation today. God has come. God is with us. God is one of us. And with that knowledge, we can face whatever mysteries life will bring us. Today, let us take comfort and rejoice in this good news!