Celebrating the Solemnity of the Annunciation on the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and only a few days after Khalid Masood’s murderous Westminster attack is very poignant. We are asked to think about life when death seems to permeate the air, about motherhood when many are grieving for their sons and daughters as war, famine and disease take their toll. Is there some horrible divine irony in this, or something from which we can take comfort (i.e. strength)?
In the West, it is true, Mary is usually portrayed in terms of motherhood: expectant mother, new mother, grieving mother. It is almost as though she had no existence outside or beyond her role as a mother, yet she did. She was also a daughter, perhaps a sister, certainly a friend, a wife, and above all an ordinary Jewish woman with the hopes and dreams of an ordinary Jewish woman of her time. The invitation to become the mother of the Messiah turned many of those hopes and dreams on their head, yet Mary accepted in a moment of unequalled faith — and in so doing changed the world in a way no treaty or act of terrorism ever could.
The bright hope of the Treaty of Rome for a Europe free from war and division is fading now; the Westminster attack is yet another instance of people choosing to destroy because they hate rather than love; but Mary remains a symbol of hope and encouragement. She is a life-giver rather than a life-taker. She speaks to us of love and sacrifice, fidelity and generosity, and aren’t those things holier and more attractive than their opposites? Her Son offers us a peace surpassing human understanding, the prospect of eternal life, and a joy no one can take from us. Mary’s fiat has made these things possible for us. Let us thank her for that, and ask her prayers for a world that aches for mercy and compassion.
Illustration by D. Werburg Welch, copyright © Stanbrook Abbey. Used by permission.