Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
In the midst of the Advent season, the Church gives to us in the Office of Readings a beautiful reflection on the Annunciation written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
St. Bernard’s sermon imagines the entire world waiting for the Virgin Mary’s reply to the Angel Gabriel:
You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
He then goes a step further and considers what Adam and the patriarchs of the Old Testament would have been thinking, if they were looking at the scene:
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
St. Bernard’s writing emphasizes how much hung on that single “Yes” to Gabriel. The entire world’s salvation hinged on her reply:
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
While our own response to God is not as momentous, we can imagine these final words directed to us, encouraging us to say “Yes” to God in our own lives:
See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.