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?” (Luke 1:30-34)
Mary, being fully human, asked a reasonable, practical question of the Angel Gabriel. She didn’t simply hear the rather stunning news that she would bear a child in her womb. She asked, “Wait, explain! How can that be? I’m a virgin!”
She did consent to God’s plan — and how grateful we are for her fiat — but first, she asked about it; she used her reason.
Sometimes we forget that we’re perfectly permitted to ask God what he is about. Our God is a being of reason, as his plans prove again and again when they are revealed to us in our lives. How many times have we looked back over the span of a decade or so and suddenly realized that those times our story took an odd turn, it was in order to make room for something else we’d never have imagined.
But if hindsight is 2o/20, the present moment is not always clear, and it doesn’t always seem reasonable, either. Things are permitted to happen, and on their face they seem unfair, unjust, even brutal. And yet, we’re told God has a plan. And we can point to scripture and seen that idea borne out, in both the Old and New Testaments.
We look at Christ’s Passion — unfair, unjust, brutal — and yet, necessary, if the Resurrection were to occur. We look at Mary’s situation, here: A virgin told she would become the epitome of all that was dishonorable among her own people, unmarried and pregnant — told that she will bring forth the King of Kings, the Messiah, the Son of God.
Think about how you’d take the news that you were both highly favored and also set to live a life that will keep you forever separate, because no other human will ever fully understand the internal and emotional cost of the blessing. Imagine sitting with a neighbor over a cup of tea, listening to complaints about the kids and thinking, “Yeah, that’s tough. Try raising God, sometime.”
For the rest of her life, a part of Mary was reserved only for Jesus, and no doubt, the questions continued, because the life of faith foments questions of a human mind and heart. So it’s perfectly okay to ask, “How can this be? How, Lord,how? WHY?”
And it’s perfectly okay to expect an answer, too. Eventually, if you are looking for it, it will come.
Come, Lord Jesus! All of Advent is a time of wonder and wondering: How can this be, that God will come to us as a helpless infant? Come into my questions and my wonderings, and teach me, because you are All Truth. Give me strength, Lord, to persevere when I do not understand, and a soulful ear to hear, finally, all of your answers. Amen.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. – Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio
Aleteia is bringing you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.