Monday of the Third Week
Holy Spirit, help me to see your surprises today and to welcome them with open hands. Simon Bishop SJ
Entering into Prayer
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, so you might like to begin your prayer with the ‘Hail Mary’ or another prayer connected to Mary, the Mother of God. You could also try our Rosary Meditations.
Today's Scripture (Luke 1: 26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’ the angel answered, ‘And the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary, ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
Food for thought
From the earliest recorded history, the feast of the Annunciation has been celebrated on 25 March. In writings as early as AD 240 it is suggested that Creation, the Incarnation and the death of Jesus took place on this date. Similar calculations are found in the early and later Middle Ages. The dates of the feasts of the Annunciation and of Christmas owe their origin to these writings.
A betrothal in Jewish Law is the first part of the marriage ceremony, and betrothed couples are considered man and wife, joined in a spiritual union. Later, marked by a second ceremony, the husband and wife come to live together and their marriage is consummated. Mary would already have regarded Joseph as her husband. To become pregnant in such circumstances risked being accused of adultery, for which the penalty was death. We witness Mary’s faith and courage in accepting to conceive a child by cooperating with the power and plan of God – a plan that cannot be fulfilled without her.
Suggestions for prayer
I read this familiar story, asking the Holy Spirit to show me what it is that God wishes to reveal to me today. Then, putting the text aside, I try to be present in the scene, watching the story unfold in my imagination or, if this is difficult for me, describing it as if to a small child. I listen to the words spoken by the angel and by Mary; I notice their reactions – Mary’s surprise and confusion, the angel’s joy and conviction; Mary’s acceptance. Perhaps I speak to Mary or to the angel about what is happening.
The angel tells Mary, ‘Do not be afraid … Listen!’ Are there areas in my life now where I am fearful, where I need to listen and to trust more fully in God? Or can I see places or times where God has given me courage to listen and to persevere? I share these with the Father or Jesus or Mary. The angel tells Mary of the son she will conceive and, while Mary is focused on the practicalities of how this might happen, the angel promises the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing presence. I take time simply to rest quietly in the presence of God, setting aside for a while my concerns and activities for today, which I entrust to the Lord.
Can I pray with Mary, accepting to be God’s servant, or is this challenging for me? Perhaps there are others, like Elizabeth, who will help me? I ask for whatever grace I need.
How are you going to respond today?
As I go through today, I may like to notice whether there are times when I am held back from serving God our Lord more fully by my fears, my doubts or uncertainties. Where I perceive this and without self-recrimination, I simply offer these times to God who loves me just as I am, asking for the grace of Mary’s courage and faith. Where my trust in God is strong today, I rejoice and thank him for inspiring this faith in me.
Image for the Day
- Try the Praying with Art video.
- Spend some time meditating on this scene today and Mary’s ‘Yes’.
Examen (review of prayer)
When you come towards the end of your time of prayer, or at the end of your day, talk to God about what has come up for you, what went well and what didn’t.