Let us lectio: He has done marvelous deeds
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8
Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read Callie's meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God's word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply, “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, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s conception, the very beginning of the life of the one full of grace. She would live her life openly and entirely in the mercy and grace of God. So why does the Gospel reading today recall the Annunciation, that is, the conception of Jesus Christ? Because the “yes” which Mary uttered at the Annunciation was not an isolated event. Instead, the fiat of Mary was an expression of a life lived in reciprocity with God. She lived her whole life, from her very conception, in a trusting and close relationship with God.
A study of the use of tenses is a fruitful one. The angel declares to Mary that she IS blessed. Not that she would be blessed if she assented to God. Not that God blessed her. But instead, she IS blessed. She is blessed regardless of how she responds; she is free to respond with liberty to what God has for her. After urging her to not be afraid, he lists a series of promises, “you will conceive,” “He will be great,” “He will rule,” etc.
After this, the angel points out Elizabeth and her miraculous conception in her old age. Doing so, he announces what God has done in her life as a sign of God’s grace and fidelity. This past tense also recalls a pattern we often see in the Psalms. Repeatedly in those prayers, we are instructed to remember God’s strength, steadfast love, etc., by declaring His works. Often His works are recalled to praise Him and to assure the listener of His faithfulness and strength as stable and unchanging characteristics.
In one sense, the Israelite people at this time are in their “old age,” waiting for the coming of the Messiah fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus. They have been waiting for God for a long time. Mary is a type of the Church and Israel. In today’s Gospel, we can see her reliving this same dynamic in her life that she would have been so familiar with as a faithful and prayerful Jew of her time. This scene shows Israel’s history and relationship with God played out again.
In Mary, we see her incomparable choice, and her unique relationship with God played out in faith and love. In her, we see a call to imitate her acceptance of what God has brought to her. Essentially, we see her saying to God with her Magnificat, “I know you, and you have time and time again shown your faithfulness. So now today, as yesterday and the day before, in you I place my trust.”
As a Church, we proclaim today and every day that He has done marvelous deeds. The God of Abraham and Jacob promised through the prophets our salvation. He has proved Himself faithful again to His word. He has raised up for us a Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Born of Mary ever virgin and ever faithful, He has come to set His people free. This is our faith and in Him we place our trust.
We are currently in the season of Advent and therefore await the feast of Christmas. We await the celebration of this marvelous deed of our Savior. We as a people are preparing to celebrate Christ’s first coming, and in doing so, we hope to prepare for Jesus’ second coming. Thus, we sing joyfully, proclaiming His goodness to all the nations. We also have the choice, like Mary and the Israelites countless times before her, to follow Him, living in His steadfast love, whatever may come.
Callie Nowlin, MTS, is a regular contributor to the North Texas Catholic.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.