Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test." And Isaiah said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanu-el. Take counsel together, but it will come to nought; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said, "Sacrifices and offerings Thou hast not desired, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings Thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, "Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God," as it is written of Me in the roll of the book." When He said above, "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then He added, "Lo, I have come to do Thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "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. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
We celebrate the Annunciation to Mary and the start of her divine pregnancy, nine months before December 25th, in order to place Christ's conception exactly nine months before his birth. Today, as a church we remember how the joyful promise of her conceiving the Messiah was announced to Mary, at her home in Nazareth.
The Lord sent Gabriel, whose name means means Power of God, with a message that would launch a new Covenant between our Maker and mankind, based on the union of the divine and human in the person of Jesus Christ. Mary knows that she has lived chastely, so she asks the puzzled question: "How shall this be, since I am a virgin?" She wants to love God above all things, and had chosen virginity before marriage as the way to live so as to please God. How then can she become a mother, here and now? The angel promises, that "the power of the Most High will overshadow you." This is the key that allows Mary to understand that the all-powerful love of God will make her the Mother of the Messiah, and yet preserve her spirit of virginal chastity.
In one of his homilies Saint Leo the Great says, "Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father's glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth. He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death."
This paragraph from Vatican II is most apt for the feast of the Annunciation: "The Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother. By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God's messenger." (Lumen Gentium, no. 63). Today we celebrate not only her belief and obedience, but the shining grace of God that makes her mother to us all.
There are some specific details in this morning's gospel: Galilee, Nazareth, Joseph of the house of David, Mary. It happens a very particular place, Nazareth in Galilee, and to a very particular couple in that place, Joseph who was betrothed to Mary. It was that particular couple in that particular place at a particular moment in time whom God chose in a special way for the sake of all of humanity. It was to that couple in that place at that time that God's Son was entrusted for all of us. The gospel concludes with the confident declaration, "Nothing is impossible to God." Yet, the one thing that God cannot do is to force our consent. God's purpose for our lives was dependent on the consent of this particular woman in this particular place at a particular time, and, also, on the consent of her spouse, Joseph. Mary's consent to God's messenger allowed God's purpose to come to pass for all of us. In a certain sense, at the moment of the annunciation, Mary represented us all; we all waited for her to say "yes" to God on all our behalves. All of humanity's deepest aspirations were focused on this particular woman, place and time. At the annunciation, God's call met with the complete human response, "Let what you have said be done to me." Luke is presenting Mary here as the exemplary disciple, the one who hears the word of God and keeps it. Because of her exemplary response to God, she became a source of blessing for all of humanity. If we can enter in some way into her response to God's call, we too will be a source of blessing for others.