“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”
-Excerpted – Hb. 10:4-10
The Annunciation… absolutely my favorite Marian feast. It’s all about the coming of the body of Christ into the world. It’s the very first instant, the very first moment when Jesus takes flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit.
One Body… Three Bodies..
It was only through this Body of Jesus that we could be saved. No other body ever created could satisfy the Divine Justice of the Father, expiating our sins.
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.”
And in the instant that this body, his body, comes into the world, another person’s body is intimately wrapped up with it… The body of Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” A prayerful young woman receives her mission from God, doing so with perfect submission and self-gift even to the point of bearing a child! “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” This is the ultimate act of worship. And also of holy imitation… because if the Son himself was pleased to descend from heaven and take up a place in the mortal world, sacrificing his body for the sake of the Father’s love… then why should we humans be any different?
And here we find a third body: The Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church. We are called on this Feast… and so appropriately duing Lent… we are called to offer up our whole selves in imitation, in worship… in union with the body of Jesus. We strive during this holy season to make our own bodies more and more like unto his by fasting prayer and almsgiving… by healthy self-possession and self-gift to place ourselves on the Cross with him so we may one day find ourselves with him in heaven. “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.”
On the Annunciation, how can we look more and more like the flesh, like the Body of Christ? Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman may give us some pointers.
Three Guide Posts to Intimacy with the Flesh of Christ
In his Meditations and Devotions, Bl. Cardinal Newman prays over the titles of Mary from her Litany. Among the tiles he associates with the Annunciation are: Mother of the Creator, Mother of Christ, and Mother of the Savior. These titles may can guide us to a closer union with our Lord this feast day and this Lent.
Mother of the Creator – As the Word, Jesus is the creative principle of God. He was sent forth at the beginning of time to create all things. He is a life giver! He is celebration! If, in our lives we are not life-giving, celebratory people, we are doing something wrong! Be a people of life and of joy!!
Mother of Christ – The Christ is precisely the “anointed” one. Anointed for what? In Isaiah we find two strong guide posts. The Anointed one is here to proclaim good news to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted liberty to captives…(Is 61). In other words, he is here to spread word of the great things God has done. The anointed one is also here to offer himself in sacrifice as the suffering servant (Is. 53). A prophet of good news… and a living sacrifice for the sake of love… that’s what we are called to be. Do I speak the GOOD news often? Do I give myself completely for God? Or do I reserve parts of my heart just for me?
Mother of the Savior – Newman describes the Savior as the one who fights for his people, to free them from oppression. But what kind of warriors does God bless? Let’s look to God’s greatest warrior, the one who was a prefigurement for Jesus himself: King David. As a young man fighting for his life, David had a chance to kill his enemy, King Saul (I Sam 24), but he didn’t. David would not touch the one whom God had made king of his people. Again, in later life, when David’s own son Absalom raises a rebellion against him: a soldier think he will please David by killing Abasalom (II Sam 18). Far from pleased, David mourns the death of his child. In both cases, God’s saving warrior David keeps his focus where it belongs, on the providential plan of God… not on his own safety, or even his own suffering. Likewise us: if we are to be close to the flesh of the savior, we need to keep our focus outside ourselves, to save the world through fidelity to the Father…and not to our own visions of what should or shouldn’t be.
This Lent… This Annunciation, draw close to the Flesh of Christ, which first entered the womb of Mary on this night so long ago. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!