Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
(Isaiah 7:10-14.8:10; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38)
“What if Mary said “no” to Gabriel?” the proponents of human freedom like to speculate. “Can anyone resist the efficacy of grace?” defenders of divine authority counter. In a reflection on Sandro Botticelli’s painting of the Annunciation appearing in America magazine last year, Professor Jerome Miller shows how the artist reconciles these two issues.
Professor Miller writes that as Gabriel hails Mary, God comes to her not in control of the future but as the future. At the same time both summoned and attracted, Mary willingly responds favorably to the divine possibilities in the present that this future holds. In other words, she concedes to the will of God to bear His son so that the world may be freed from sin. The magnificence is not just in the theology but in Botticelli’s conception of it. He paints a hunched Gabriel pointing a hand of urgency to the young woman and a curved Mary relating both an awe of and openness to God.
Professor Miller points out that God hails all of us, like Mary, by name and presents us with His future. Our openness to his word, which is another way of saying the grace in our hearts, shapes our response. Moved by grace to respond favorably to God’s beckoning, we let go of egotism and respond in love to the needs of others.