Monday, January 14, 2013

Pope Benedict's Great Annunciation Insights

I've been slowly, slowly reading Pope Benedict's Infancy Narratives since Advent. As per usual with the Pope's writing I'm finding it jam packed with little capsules of mind-blowing insight - seriously, he is so smart it really is crazy! I just thought I'd share this little tidbit that hit me like a truck regarding the Annunciation and the effect it had on Mary:

"The great hour of Mary's encounter with God's messenger - in which her whole life is changed - comes to an end, and she remains there alone, with the task that truly surpasses all human capacity. There are no angels standing round her. She must continue along the path that leads through many dark moments - from Joseph's dismay at her pregnancy to the moment when Jesus is said to be out of his mind, right up to the night of the Cross."(Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI, pp 37. Emphasis mine.)

This passage made me think of the Annunciation completely differently than I have previously. 

I think I've always sluffed off the Annunciation and Mary's pregnancy and even her whole life because of the whole Immaculate Conception business. Doesn't the Immaculate Conception pretty much guarantee one a direct line to God? As in no waiting for answers, being perfectly in tune with His plans, full of grace and acceptance of His will, maybe even partly knowing his will before it happens? 

But this passage is so insightful. It's true, there were no angel's holding her hand or telling her what to say to Joseph when things hit the fan. Did anyone tell her she was going to have to trek on a donkey schlepping to Bethlehem just when she was supposed to give birth to a child conceived by the Holy Spirit? I think not.

It marvels me that there could be such a gap of knowledge between even God and Mary. For some reason I've come to equate holiness to an ever increasing knowledge of what God's got going on. Somehow instead of faith and reliance on God, I see more intellectual knowledge, more knowing, in Mary and the Saints, which of course (duh, Christy!), is completely backwards. Even in those closest to God what He continues to ask of them is not more faithful obedience to his carefully laid out plans that He gives to them in itemized detail, but a wild and trusting faith that His ways are always at work even when we haven't got a clue. 

Pope Benedict continues:

"The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch." (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI, pp 38. Emphasis mine.)

Isn't that a beautiful description at what a real relationship with God is about? Not outward or visible knowledge or power, but a closeness of the heart. But at the same time something so tangible that Mary could see and touch it. 

I think these two small passages have important implications in regards to the spiritual life and how it really works. Its not magic, it doesn't give secret knowledge, or even elimnates the human problem of feeling helpless and clueless. But it becomes real the more we follow and pursue the inner conversation with God. I love this book for these epiphanies! 


  1. I've often thought of how terrifying it could have been to receive this message from God - not the meeting with the angel - but rather being left alone, knowing that - in a society that believes it has the right to stone to death an unmarried, pregnant woman - you must stand alone with (possibly) only your faith in God as your only strength.

    Joseph wasn't "full of grace", neither was Elizabeth or anyone else in Mary's family or her neighbors - they could have reacted in any number of horrible ways.

    Growing up Protestant Mary was never given much more consideration than a surrogate - it was so easy to forget the pain, fear and suffering she must have went thru (even with her perfect faith in God) and it makes her all the more amazing in my eyes.

  2. Must add this book to my to-read list! I love books where you just read a little at a time and digest :)


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