What Day Is It?
When a crisis hits, it’s easy to lose track of time. “What day is it today?” has been asked in our (virtual) office a lot this week. Our minds are all muddled, our senses are in overdrive, and our routines have been disrupted.
This is why, even though I otherwise expected it, I was surprised when the Daily Office reminded me: today is the Feast Day of the Annunciation. On March 25, the Church remembers the angelic annunciation to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son; that she would call his name Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
It might seem misplaced to get a little bit of Advent and Christmas in March. But of course, the Annunciation takes place now because approximately nine months before Jesus is born, he is conceived. The Annunciation is a foretaste, then, of God’s arrival.
And what happens when God first arrives in this world? Arguably, not much. A woman gets pregnant. She visits her cousin. She prophesies. These things may not seem like enough in a world groaning with violence, injustice, and suffering. But God’s ways are not our ways. When He comes, He makes Himself much smaller and much slower than we might like.
The Annunciation is a reminder to us that God is committed to the process of history. In taking on flesh, He has submitted Himself to time. Furthermore, the Annunciation is a promise that in the fullness of time, all things will be aligned and renewed under the rule of Christ: “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:23). God is not in a hurry, for He is the Lord of History.
When Mary first received this news from the angel Gabriel, she did not have much experiential evidence to weigh. In fact, the very idea that she would conceive defied the evidence— “how can this be, since I am a virgin?” But by faith, Mary believed the promise of God. And by faith she responded, with what has become one of the most famous passages in all Scripture:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
A Seed of Hope
Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is a promise to us all. And Mary’s prophetic response teaches us how to claim and believe what is true even before we can see it with our own eyes. This is a reminder to us in the wilderness of Lent—and the wilderness of this pandemic—that God is at work behind the scenes, sowing seeds of hope that will flower in the fullness of time.
This morning, in my confusion and distress about the state of our world, the Annunciation reminded me that we belong to a bigger story than the one we see on the news. It is a long, slow, story called Redemption. Jesus has already written the ending. We may not even know what day of the week it is, but we can entrust ourselves to the One who holds all of history in his hand.