THE FIRST JOYFUL MYSTERY: THE ANNUNCIATION
- Posted by Guest Blogger
- On December 2, 2020
By Lead Blog Contributor: Daniella Palmiotto
I have found that most conversations with friends, family members, and strangers at coffee shops these days involve hearing some version of how plans for travel, work, celebrations, new ventures, or other milestones have been disrupted, cancelled, and/or postponed indefinitely. These conversations are echoed around the world. We joke about it being the year 2020 and that we can’t wait for this year to be over, but at the same time we feel the anxiety and stress knowing that the stroke of the clock on December 31, 2020 does not necessarily promise that the insanity and uncertainty of this year will suddenly disappear and usher in changed circumstances in the year 2021. I had moved to Italy with plans to live a simpler life in the mountains and to lead others on faith-based pilgrimages through the beauty and faith-filled places of Umbria. However, the circumstances of this year prompted me to reassess those plans, to regroup, and to discern how God is working in the midst of these changed circumstances. Again, this is a common theme and a friend of mine reminded me that it is a season of waiting and renewal. Thinking about this time as an invitation to wait on the Lord and to be renewed in Him (Romans 12:2) calms me, reduces the stress, and offers me so much hope. The alternative is to focus on cancelled plans and the uncertainty of what is to come, which leaves me frantic, disappointed, and feeling a great deal of despair – definitely not where the Lord wants any of us to be.
I am praying that I spend these upcoming months waiting on the Lord while growing in virtue and renewing myself in Him and I pray the same for you as well. It is a beautiful and noble idea, but the trouble comes in resting in this truth when we are surrounded by factors actively fighting against our peace of mind, body, and spirit. One night while walking in my neighborhood praying the Rosary, I was meditating on the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The fruits of that mystery are sacrifice and obedience. I was thinking about Mary and Joseph and about how they brought Jesus to the temple in obedience to the Jewish law truly having no idea what life would be like as the parents of the son of God. And I was struck by how each of the Joyful Mysteries serves as an example of how to live joyfully in the waiting and renewing. As hopeful as it is to accept the invitation to wait on the Lord and to be renewed in Him, it does not offer certainty. Instead, it requires dependency and deeper union with Christ as we wait for Him to direct our steps and to lead us. The Holy Family in the Joyful Mysteries offers a model of how to live joyfully in these circumstances. In this piece, I am going to focus on the first Joyful Mystery and will share my reflections from my perspective so you can insert yourself into the story as well. I will share meditations on each of the remaining Joyful Mysteries in subsequent posts so we can break each mystery down one at a time.
First Joyful Mystery – The Annunciation – Fruit: Humility
We read in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and greeted her at the Annunciation, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you,” Mary “was greatly troubled […] and wondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:28-29). It would be accurate to describe my response to our current circumstances as “greatly troubled” and wondering what is next so her situation at that moment is very relatable.
The angel went on to tell her “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Scripture tells us time and time again to be not afraid and we know that we are loved by a powerful and good God. Scripture tells us in Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” We are given a promise by God that He is faithful and is always with us.
The angel then went on to tell Mary that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High, that He would be in the line of David, and that His kingdom would have no end (Luke 1:31-33). This is like each of us being asked to handle all of the overwhelming circumstances and changes in our individual states in life. University students taking classes online. Parents of young children having to raise rambunctious and antsy children at home, teaching and directing them in virtual school while working at home, and not being able to organize playdates so their kids have a social outlet. Mary must have experienced this same sense of feeling overwhelmed at this news and asked, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)
The angel Gabriel answered her with an even more vague response that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). What is next though? If Mary was being asked to give birth to this child, surely plans must be made and further instructions must be given. Mary was also told that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived after being barren since “nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:36-37). I am the type of person who talks a lot and asks a lot of questions so I can see myself staring at the angel and then interrogating him with questions while probing for details and assurances. Mary responded with her fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 concludes with the statement that the angel departed from her. No further instructions, no advice, no clarifications, no roadmap. Nothing. Just all of this extraordinary news of what the future would hold that completely changed her life and she accepted it with humility and surrender. What a model of serenity and trust in God! She did not know the details, but I am sure that she knew she would need to rely on God each moment of each day. She knew God’s character and that He was faithful and that was all the reassurance that she needed.
Lord, we pray for an increase of this virtue of humility in the circumstances of our state of life in each moment. May we trust that You are walking with us and leading us, never abandoning us. May we not demand answers and explanations, but may we rest deeply in Your character knowing that You are good and that You are faithful working all things for our good. May Mary’s fiat live within each of our hearts, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”