For the readings and prayers of today's Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, please go to
In our parish pilgrimages to the Holy Land, our first mass has been celebrated at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Every day, the mass and its particular readings and prayers that is celebrated at the Basilica is, not surprisingly, the same mass that the world-wide church celebrates today (as seen in the link above). For this mass, the opening words of the gospel are as follows: "The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth …", but at the Basilica of the Annunciation, a slight change in phrasing is proclaimed: "The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to THIS town in Galilee called Nazareth …"
Each time I have had the privilege of proclaiming this gospel at the Basilica, a chill has gone through my body when I said "THIS town". For I realize that this story isn't just a lovely story of a conversation between an angel and a teenage girl. I realize that it happened right there - 2000 years ago, in that place, at that time. This story was real - and it still is real - a fundamental reality of our faith.
Let's consider the opening words that Gabriel says to Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you". Sound familiar? It should - those words have been forever echoed at the start of the "Hail, Mary" prayer.
We then hear that Mary was perplexed by the words and pondered what they could mean. A very understandable reaction. Even with her profound faith and trust, Mary feels uncertain at this moment. She asks, “How can this be…?”
So Gabriel gives further clarification as to what this means and how it could be possible.
It's through the coming of the Holy Spirit that it will be possible. Through the overshadowing of God that it will be possible. Then we hear Mary's assent: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word". And as a result, as St. John writes: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1: 14)
I always get great comfort at Mary's initial reaction of being perplexed and her need to ponder what was being asked of her. How often in our own lives news comes our way that surprises us, or even shocks us. So much so that it takes some time before we can digest what we have just heard, what we have just seen. But in the end, like Mary, we have to come to terms with this new reality.
Most of us are now feeling worried, anxious and concerned about the news of the spread of COVID-19 that is announced to us each day. Just like Mary did 2000 years ago, we wonder, “How can this be?” and we struggle to keep faith that God is with us. Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her to make what has been announced possible. In these unsettling times, can we imitate the faith of Mary to believe that the Holy Spirit is with us? Even when we feel helpless?
On this day, for ourselves, and especially for all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, scientists, all those combatting the spread of this virus, let us pray the words of the Salve Regina:
"Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.
℣ Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
℟ that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."