First Emmanuel Station: The Annunciation

December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

Annunciation IconFor the longest time I have struggled with Mary, Virgin Mother of God. It’s seemed to me that Mary got a bad deal. When I would read or pray Luke’s account (Luke 1:26-38) of the Annunciation, the word “bear” stood out to me. What a burden it was to be told that she would bear the child of God. Mary responds graciously to the angel’s news, but what choice did she really have when told that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadow her? The angel doesn’t leave much room for Mary to refuse.

 On my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last January I visited the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Facing the altar, at the back of the congregation, is a large icon of Mary as the Burning Bush that confronts Moses (Ex 3:1-22). In this and similar icons, Mary appears to Moses as the Theotokos, the God-bearer. Like the burning bush, Mary is on fire with the task of bringing the Word of God into the world. Like the bush, Mary is not consumed. She burns but she does not burn up.

 As I meditated on that icon, I began to understand Mary and the Annunciation differently. Rather than being a sweet, innocent, virginal girl who meekly bows to the will of God, Mary is a powerful woman who burns with a love of God and who has the strength to accept the pain and the grief that always go hand in hand with the joy and peace of accepting God’s invitation to bring forth the Word. Mary’s supposedly meek and mild “be it unto me according to thy Word,” expresses a willingness to have her heart broken so that Love can enter the world. Mary can be for all us a witness to the strength required of us to say “yes” to God, to agree to burn with God’s love. This task is a painful one, but if we accept it willingly, aware of the cost, like Mary we may also bring the Word of grace and love into the world.

– Will Owen

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