Posts Tagged ‘Luke 1:26-38’
Surrendering Our Will – Br. Curtis Almquist
In various apocryphal writings of the early church, this young Mary is presumed to be about fourteen years old when the angel Gabriel visits her with the astounding news we’ve just heard. Mary is betrothed, not yet married. Betrothals, which were legal and binding, were usually arranged between families when girls were still quite young, not accustomed to making decisions for themselves. (1) With the angel’s announcement to her, she is perplexed. She gives some resistance. How this can be, she to be the birthmother of the Son of God? She questions this, and she is afraid, as well she should. Read More
Making Space for God – Br. James Koester
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2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 18; Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38
Every year at this time I am caught off guard, and it happened again yesterday. For the last several weeks we have been reading lessons, which frankly can terrify me:
But the bridegroom replied, “Truly I tell you, I do now know you.1
You that are accursed depart from me, into the eternal fire prepared
for the devil and his angels.2
… for you do not know when the master of the house will come … [and]
he may find you asleep…. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.3
And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to [John the Baptist], and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.4
These gospel lessons, beginning toward the end of the Pentecost cycle are not all that fun to ponder. After all, who among us wants to be reminded week after week that it is quite possible to be denied, especially if we have denied; to be left out, when we have left others out; to fall asleep when we have been charged to keep alert.
But suddenly everything has changed, and I am caught off guard. It happened once again yesterday.
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the
son of Abraham.5
For the last several weeks we have been pondering lessons which point us to the coming of Christ at the end of time to be judge and ruler of all. Suddenly, suddenly our focus shifts and we are invited to ponder the coming of Christ, not in glory at the end of time, but in lowliness in time as the babe of Bethlehem. We are invited to ponder Jesus, not as judge, but as messiah; not as ruler, but as savior and we do that today by pondering the familiar story of Mary’s strange encounter with Gabriel; a story which we remember here at the monastery three times each day.
The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary:
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you….6
We remember this encounter because it both fulfills and begins a whole sequence of events reaching back to one garden and forward to another, from one tree to another: from Eden to Gethsemane; from the tree of life to the wood of the cross and beyond. Mary’s ‘yes’ spans time and space and opened her to become the temple of the Lord that David longed to build. In spite of David’s desire to build, it was in Mary that God chose to dwell, for the building blocks of the temple are not wood and stone and gold, but flesh and blood and a heart full of love. And that is precisely what God found in Mary.
By saying ‘yes’ to God and becoming the Mother of the Saviour, Mary made room for God not only in her womb, but in her heart. Because of this act of great love she became, as Orthodox tradition calls her, More Spacious than the Heavens for “He whom not even the universe could contain was contained within the womb of a virgin, making her more spacious than the Heavens.”7
David longed to build a temple fit for God to reside and in the heart of an unwed teenager, God found that temple not because she was a master builder in wood and stone but because she was a master builder in love.
Like that day two thousand years ago, God longs for a temple in which to reside. He longs for a temple, not of stone and light, no matter how glorious, but of flesh and blood and a heart of full of love. Like Mary, you are God’s temple and God’s spirit dwells in you8 for when you say ‘yes’ to God you open yourself to God and God’s glory abides in you; when you say ‘yes’ to God, the Word is made flesh and dwells among us.9
Although everyone loves a baby, Christmas is not actually about babies. Christmas is about saying ‘yes’ to God. Christmas is about making space for God. Christmas is about becoming God’s temple. Christmas is about becoming, like Mary, ‘more spacious than the heavens.’ Christmas is about opening the temple of your heart to the love, and life and light of God.
We have just a week to get ready for Christmas and there is a lot to do: there are presents to buy; trees to decorate; puddings and cakes and cookies to make; gifts to wrap; parties to attend; cards to send. But the most important thing to do is that there is a ‘yes’ to say and a temple to build.
Only you can say ‘yes’ to God and only you can open your heart to God. Only you can build that temple in your heart where the one whom the heavens cannot contain may dwell.
Two thousand years ago, Gabriel appeared to Mary looking for a heart of love where God might dwell, and all creation waited with bated breath for her ‘yes’. Today the sound of angel wings stir the air and Gabriel is once again looking for someone whose heart is full of love. Won’t you this Christmas open your heart to God and say ‘yes’ so that the Word might once more become flesh and dwell among us? Won’t you say ‘yes’ to God and offer him the temple of your heart? Won’t you say ‘yes’ to God and make space in your heart so that like Mary’s heart yours too will be more spacious than the heavens? Won’t you say ‘yes’ to Gabriel so that God’s light and life and love might dwell in you?
Won’t you say ‘yes’ to God? Gabriel and all creation are waiting with bated breath for your answer.
2 Matthew 25: 41; Christ the King, Year A
3 Mark 13: 35, 36; Advent I, Year B
4 Mark 1: 5; Advent II, Year B
5 Matthew 1: 1; Gospel appointed for 17 December, Year 2
6 The Angelus: A Devotion of the Incarnation recited daily at 6 AM, 12 noon and 6 PM
7 See 1 Kings 8: 27 and 2 Chronicles 6: 18
Chosen by God from the Foundation of the Earth – Br. James Koester
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Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
Those of you who have joined us at one point or another for one of our meals will know that most of the time, on most days, we listen to the reading of a book during the meal. It’s only on Sundays, Tuesdays and some feast days that we share in conversation over the meal. Right now we are reading quite an interesting, and highly amusing biography of Benjamin Franklin, entitled Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. It turns out, as we have discovered, that Franklin was quite an interesting, and highly amusing character. Earlier in the fall our book of choice was a little more esoteric as we read Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary by Miri Rubin. Mother of God was a heavier read, and as we joked at the time, we now knew more about Mary than she knew about herself! One of the underlying themes of the book was that before she became known as the Mother of God, before she became known as the Queen of Heaven she was simply Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. In essence underlying all the titles and the various devotions that is who she was, and that is who she remains.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that young girl of Nazareth. It is feast not spoken of in scripture but one deeply rooted in the tradition of the Church from ancient times and one which says as much about us, and our life in God as it does about Mary herself and her life in God. So while the focus today is on Mary, we see in her the source and ground of our own life of faith. In looking at Mary we gaze not outwardly, or even upwardly, but inwardly to our own adoption as children of God because it is there that we find Mary’s true vocation, and ours as well, to be the adopted daughters and sons of God.
This feast reminds us that while Mary was chosen for the particular purpose of becoming the mother of God’s son, so too has God chosen “us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before [God] in love.” The choice of Mary was not random, or happenstance. It was particular and eternal. She was chosen and appointed by God “while yet in her mother’s womb to be the Mother of our Lord” In the same way, we too have been chosen by Christ, for Jesus in the Gospel of John reminds us that:
[y]ou did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you
to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last ….
Like Mary we too have been chosen by God from the foundation of the world to go and bear fruit, fruit that would last for all eternity. Think of it! You have not been chosen randomly, or by happenstance, but particularly and eternally to bear fruit for God.
Mary’s particular vocation from “before the foundation of the world” was to be the mother of Jesus and that vocation continues to unfold with the sound of fluttering wings:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a
town called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named
whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s
name was Mary.
This is no ordinary encounter, but then the message was no ordinary message:
you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you
will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called
the Son of the Most High … 
It was a particular and eternal vocation, to be the mother of Jesus, and for a moment eternity stood still while all heaven waited for Mary’s response. We remember Mary’s response to Gabriel throughout the year in various feasts when we remember her life. Here at the monastery we remember that response throughout the day when we pray the Angelus: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it unto me according to your word.” It was that ‘yes’ for which Mary had been created. It was that ‘yes’ for which Mary was made. It was that ‘yes’ for which Mary was appointed and chosen from the foundation of the world. It was that ‘yes’ for which she was prepared while still I her mother’s womb. And it was for that ‘yes’ that all heaven waited for a brief moment in time. For the rest of her life, and indeed for the rest of time, the echoes of that ‘yes’ reverberate as the air vibrated that day in Nazareth to the movement of Gabriel’s wings. It was no easy thing to live with that ‘yes’, but once given it was not taken back. It, like God’s own choice of Mary, was for all eternity.
If the story of that ‘yes’ is Mary’s story, and the story we celebrate tonight, so too is it our story, and so it is our story that we celebrate tonight as well. For like Mary, we too have been chosen by God to bear the Word of God, and to give birth to Word of God in the world. We may not, like Mary, have been asked to give physical birth to God’s son, but as with Mary, we have been asked to bear and carry and give birth to the Word of God. So as with Mary, so with us, eternity stands still while all heaven waits for our answer. What will it be? Will you like Mary say ‘yes’ to God’s choice of you as friend, and disciple and lover? Will you like Mary open the womb of your heart and bear, and carry and give birth to the Incarnate Word of God so that all “might live for the praise of his glory?” Will you like Mary, say “yes”?
We say ‘yes’ to so many things. ‘Yes’ to another piece of dessert. ‘Yes’ to an advertisement or sales pitch. ‘Yes’ to an invitation or a request from a colleague or friend. And sometimes we say ‘yes’ to God. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to God when we hear the wings of an angel. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to the very thing that we were made for. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to the very thing for which we have been destined from all eternity.
When we say ‘yes’ to God, our ‘yes’ echoes that of Mary’s and “the Word [becomes] flesh and [lives] among us” here and now and we, like Mary, become God bearers and our eternal destiny is fulfilled for all time.
Tonight we celebrate, not simply God’s choice of Mary from the foundation of the world to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, but God’s eternal choice of us to be the bearers of that same Word as well. We celebrate not simply Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary, but to us as well, for we too are favoured of the Lord.  We celebrate not simply Mary’s eternal ‘yes’ but ours as well.
So tonight as you make a womb of your heart and a manger of your hands in which to receive the Son of the Most High, listen for the sound of angel wings beating upon the wind and join your voice to the echo of Mary’s and with her say ‘yes’ to God who has chosen and appointed you from the foundation of the world to go and bear fruit, fruit that would last.
 Ephesians 1:5
 Ephesians 1:4
 Collect: Conception of the BVM, FAS p. 371
 John 15:16
 Luke 1:26-27
 Luke 1: 31-32
 John 15:14, 15 “You are my friends if you do what I command you…” “…I have called you friends….”
 Ephesians 1:12
 Ephesians 1:11 “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,….”
 John 1:14
 Luke 1:28: “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”
Feast of the Annunciation – Br. Curtis Almquist
Sister John of the Cross is a contemporary Carmelite nun who experiences spiritual visions of such dazzling power and insight that she is sought after and revered by many people as being something of a spiritual master. The only qualification to her spiritual prowess is that her visions are accompanied by powerful headaches. Read More