The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)
The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence. It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.
We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding the divine Sonship. Why then?
We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people.
The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God—from an act of his grace.
(From Dogma und Verkundigung, pp. 375ff; quoted in Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year [Ignatius Press, 1992], pp. 99-100.)
The annunciation to Mary happens to a woman, in an insignificant town in half-pagan Galilee, known neither to Josephus nor the Talmud. The entire scene was "unusual for Jewish sensibilities. God reveals himself, where and to whom he wishes." Thus begins a new way, at whose center stands no longer the temple, but the simplicity of Jesus Christ. He is now the true temple, the tent of meeting.
The salutation to Mary (Lk 1:28-32) is modeled closely on Zephaniah 3: 14-17: Mary is the daughter Zion addressed there, summoned to " rejoice", in formed that the Lord is coming to her. Her fear is removed, since the Lord is in her midst to save her. Laurentin makes the very beautiful remark on this text: "... As so often, the word of God proves to be a mustard seed.... One understands why Mary was so frightened by this message (Lk 1:29). Her fear comes not from lack of understanding nor from that small-hearted anxiety to which some would like to reduce it. It comes from the trepidation of that encounter with God, that immeasurable joy which can make the most hardened natures quake."
In the address of the angel, the underlying motif the Lucan portrait of Mary surfaces: she is in person the true Zion, toward whom hopes have yearned throughout all the devastations of history. She is the true Israel in whom Old and New Covenant, Israel and Church, are indivisibly one. She is the "people of God" bearing fruit through God's gracious power. ...
Transcending all problems, Marian devotion is the rapture of joy over the true, indestructible Israel; it is a blissful entering into the joy of the Magnificat and thereby it is the praise of him to whom the daughter Zion owes her whole self and whom she bears, the true, incorruptible, indestructible Ark of the Covenant.
(From Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief [Ignatius Press, 1983], pp. 42-43, 82.)
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:
• Mary in Byzantine Doctrine and Devotion | Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
• Fairest Daughter of the Father: On the Solemnity of the Assumption | Rev. Charles M. Mangan
• The Blessed Virgin in the History of Christianity | John A. Hardon, S.J.
• "Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? | Fr. Manfred Hauke
• Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
• The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old Testament | Sandra Miesel
• Immaculate Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
• The Medieval Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
• Misgivings About Mary | Dr. James Hitchcock
• Born of the Virgin Mary | Paul Claudel
• Assumed Into Mother's Arms | Carl E. Olson
• The Disciple Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
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