Feast of the Annunciation


The Feast of the Annunciation commemorates the visit of the archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, during which he announced to her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

God calls the Archangel Gabriel to appear before Him

At the bidding of the divine will the holy archangel Gabriel presented himself at the foot of the throne of God intent upon the immutable essence of the Most High. His Majesty then expressly charged him with the message, which he was to bring to the most holy Mary, and instructed him in the very words with which he was to salute and address Her. Thus the first Author of the message was God Himself, who formed the exact words in his divine mind and revealed them to the holy archangel for transmission to the most pure Mary.

The supernal prince Gabriel, obeying with singular delight the divine command and accompanied by many thousands of most beautiful angels in visible forms, descended from the highest heaven. The appearance of the great prince and legate was that of a most handsome youth of rarest beauty; his face emitted resplendent rays of light, his bearing was grave and majestic, his advance measured, his motions composed, his words weighty and powerful, his whole presence displayed a pleasing, kindly gravity and more of godlike qualities than all the other angels until then seen in a visible form by the heavenly mistress. He wore a diadem of exquisite splendor and his vestments glowed in various colors full of refulgent beauty. Enchased on his breast, he bore a most beautiful cross, disclosing the mystery of the Incarnation, which He had come to announce.

The whole of this celestial army with their princely leader Gabriel directed their flight to Nazareth, a town of the province of Galilee, to the dwelling place of the most holy Mary. This was a humble cottage, and her chamber was a narrow room, bare of all those furnishings which are wont to be used by the world in order to hide its own meanness and want of all higher goods. The heavenly Mistress was at this time fourteen years, six months, and seventeen days of age.

The age and appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The bodily shape of the heavenly Queen was well proportioned and taller than is usual with other maidens of her age, yet extremely elegant and perfect in all parts. Her face was rather more oblong than round, gracious and beautiful, without leanness or grossness; its complexion clear yet of a slightly brownish hue; her forehead spacious yet symmetrical; her eyebrows perfectly arched; her eyes large and serious, of incredible and ineffable beauty and dovelike sweetness, dark in color with a mixture tending toward green; her nose straight and well shaped; her mouth small, with red-colored lips, neither too thin nor too thick. All the gifts of nature in her were so symmetrical and beautiful, that no other human being ever had the like. To look upon her caused feelings at the same time of joy and seriousness, love, and reverential fear. She attracted the heart and yet restrained it in sweet reverence; her beauty impelled the tongue to sound her praise, and yet her grandeur and her overwhelming perfections and graces hushed it to silence. In all that approached her, she caused divine effects not easily explained; she filled the heart with heavenly influences and divine operations, tending toward the Divinity. Her garments were humble and poor, yet clean, of a dark silvery hue, somewhat like the color of ashes, and they were arranged and worn without pretense, but with the greatest modesty and propriety.

The Archangel Gabriel appears to the Blessed Virgin Mary

The holy archangel Gabriel, accompanied by innumerable angels in visible human forms and resplendent with incomparable beauty, entered the chamber where the most holy Mary was praying. The great modesty and restraint of the Princess of Heaven did not permit Her to look at him more than was necessary to recognize him as an angel of the Lord. Recognizing him as such, she, in her usual humility, wished to do him reverence. The holy prince would not allow it; on the contrary, he himself bowed profoundly as before his Queen and Mistress, in whom he adored the heavenly mysteries of his Creator. At the same time, he understood that from that day on the ancient times and the custom of old whereby men should worship angels, as Abraham had done, were changed. For as human nature was raised to the dignity of God Himself in the person of the Word, men now held the position of adopted children, of companions and brethren of the angels, as the angel said to the Evangelist Saint John when he refused to be worshipped (Apoc. 19, 10).

The holy archangel saluted our and his Queen and said: "Ave gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus," or, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1, 28). Hearing this new salutation of the angel, this most humble of all creatures was disturbed, but not confused in mind (Luke 1, 29). This disturbance arose from two causes: first, from her humility, for she thought herself the lowest of the creatures and thus in her humility was taken unawares at hearing herself saluted and called "Blessed among women;" secondly, when she heard this salute and began to consider within herself how she should receive it, she was interiorly made to understand by the Lord that He chose her for His Mother, and this caused a still greater perturbance, having such a humble opinion of herself. On account of this perturbance, the angel proceeded to explain to Mary the decree of the Lord, saying: "Do not fear, Mary, for thou hast found grace before the Lord (Luke 1, 30); behold thou shalt conceive a Son in thy womb, and thou shalt give birth to Him, and thou shalt name Him Jesus; He shall be great, and He shall be called Son of the Most High," and the rest as recorded of the holy archangel.


The Feast of the Annunciation

Our most prudent and humble Queen alone, among all the creatures, was sufficiently intelligent and magnanimous to estimate at its true value such a new and unheard of sacrament; and in proportion as she realized its greatness, so she was also moved with admiration. But she raised her humble heart to the Lord, who could not refuse Her any petition, and in her soul she asked God for new light and assistance by which to govern herself in such an arduous transaction; for, as we have said in the preceding chapter, the Most High, in order to permit her to act in this mystery solely in faith, hope and charity, left her in the common state and suspended all other kinds of favors and interior elevations, which she so frequently or continually enjoyed. In this disposition she replied and said to holy Gabriel, what is written in saint Luke: "How shall this happen, that I conceive and bear; since I know not, nor can know, man?" At the same time, she interiorly represented to the Lord the vow of chastity, which she had made, and the espousal, which his Majesty had celebrated with Her.

The holy prince Gabriel replied (Luke 1, 24): "Lady, it is easy for the divine power to make Thee a Mother without the co-operation of man; the Holy Spirit shall remain with thee by a new presence and the virtue of the Most High shall overshadow thee, so that the Holy of holies can be born of Thee, who shall Himself be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth has likewise conceived a son in her sterile years, and this is the sixth month of her conception; for nothing is impossible with God. He that can make her conceive, who was sterile, can bring it about, that thou, Lady, be his mother, still preserving thy virginity and enhancing thy purity. To the Son whom thou shalt bear, God will give the throne of his father David and his reign shall be everlasting in the house of Jacob. Thou art not ignorant, O Lady, of the prophecy of Isaias (Is. 7, 14), that a Virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son, whose name shall be Emmanuel, God with us. This prophecy is infallible, and it shall be fulfilled in thy person. Thou knowest also of the great mystery of the bush, which Moses saw burning without its being consumed by the fire (Exod. 3, 2). This signified that the two natures, divine and human, are to be united in such a manner, that the latter is not consumed by the divine, and that the Mother of the Messias shall conceive and give birth without violation of her virginal purity. Remember also, Lady, the promise of the eternal God to the Patriarch Abraham, that, after the captivity of his posterity for four generations, they should return to this land; the mysterious signification of which was, that in this, the fourth generation, the incarnate God is to rescue the whole race of Adam through thy co-operation from the oppression of the devil (Gen. 15, 16). And the ladder, which Jacob saw in his sleep (Gen. 28, 12), was an express figure of the royal way, which the eternal Word was to open up and by which the mortals are to ascend to heaven and the angels to descend to earth. To this earth the Onlybegotten of the Father shall lower Himself in order to converse with men and communicate to them the treasures of his Divinity, imparting to them his virtues and his immutable and eternal perfections." With these and many other words the ambassador of heaven instructed the most holy Mary, in order that, by the remembrance of the ancient promises and prophecies of holy Writ, by the reliance and trust in them and in the infinite power of the Most High, she might overcome her hesitancy at the heavenly message. But as the Lady herself exceeded the angels in wisdom, prudence, and in all sanctity, she withheld her answer, in order to be able to give it in accordance with the divine will and that it might be worthy of the greatest of all the mysteries and sacraments of the divine power. She reflected that upon her answer depended the pledge of the most blessed Trinity, the fulfillment of his promises and prophecies, the most pleasing and acceptable of all sacrifices, the opening of the gates of paradise, the victory and triumph over Hell, the redemption of all the human race, the satisfaction of the divine justice, the foundation of the new law of grace, the glorification of men, the rejoicing of the angels, and whatever was connected with the Incarnation of the Onlybegotten of the Father and his assuming the form of a servant in her virginal womb (Philip 2, 7).

A great wonder, indeed, and worthy of our admiration, that all these mysteries and whatever others they included, should be entrusted by the Almighty to a humble Maiden and made dependent upon her fiat.

Having conferred with Herself and with the heavenly messenger Gabriel about the grandeur of these high and divine sacraments, with a humility never sufficiently to be extolled, inclining slightly her head and joining her hands, she pronounced the words which were the beginning of our salvation: "Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum," or “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

(From The City of God by Sister Mary of Jesus, also known as Mary of Agreda)

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