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By Anne Strachan


Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)
December 21, 2014

On being grateful pilgrims

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalm 89
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

“She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?”

— Denise Levertov, Annunciation (The Stream and the Sapphire — Selected Poems on Religious Themes)

Denise Levertov’s poem Annunciation (this is only a fragment of it) is about Mary. Ultimately, it’s about us, too, in our daily living and in our prayer lives and beyond.

Often my mom prayed the rosary. The Annunciation is part of the Joyful Mysteries. She’d sit in the living room, her feet up on the footstool. Good-natured, she’d tolerate interruptions from Dad and me — she knew that prayer was only a beginning. When we reached out to her, she would respond with love.

I pray the rosary too. I use the booklet my mom did. It’s called Rosary Novenas to Our Lady, Copyright 1954 (first published in 1926). Mom gave this booklet to me and she signed it, “To Anne, Easter 1988, Love Mom.” A few months later, she suddenly died. This little prayer book continues to be a vibrant connection to my mother. As people who need prayers enter my mind, I write down their names and pray for them.

The language is old-fashioned, and I change it to more modern English. But the prayers still resonate: “Sweet Mother Mary, meditating on the Mystery of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to you with the tidings that you were to become the Mother of God; greeting you with that sublime salutation, ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!’ and you did humbly submit yourself to the will of the Father, responding: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.’ ”>

There’s a picture in this little book of the angel appearing to Mary who is sitting with her hand on her heart. Her facial expression is inscrutable; perhaps she’s still trying to grasp the angel’s proposition. She’s uncertain. A dove — the Holy Spirit — is pouring down rays of light upon her. Even though she can’t comprehend all of the emotional impact of having this child, ultimately she accepts this gift from the angel Gabriel.

As a mother, I relate to Mary. When I became pregnant with our first child, now a young woman called Carmen, I was rather amazed I’d become “with child.” Throughout my pregnancy, I pondered this life within me. She was a mystery. We’re all kind of the same — we don’t have any training for this journey of parenthood! And yet, once we accept this journey, this mystery, there are untold gifts, even when there is sorrow.

Ella Allen, in Living with Christ, writes: “Mary, Mother of God, is often a larger-than-life figure for us, a woman set apart, honoured for her ‘Yes,’ her receptivity to divine mystery. But in today’s Gospel we meet a surprised and confused young woman who is initially overwhelmed and reluctant to accept her call. This very human response is one that we, as fellow disciples, can understand; we know it from our own relationship with God. . . . Imitating Mary’s courage, may we continue to give birth to Christ, to Love, in our time and place.”

Mary was human. She was humble. And she had courage. She was the dwelling place for God’s Son. We, like Mary, need to open ourselves to Jesus. We celebrate his birth and at the same time we look with hope into the future when he will come again in glory.

In 2 Samuel we learn that God lives in people, in us. God lives in our hearts and in our lives, no matter how messy, confusing or sorrowful life can be. God lived in our ancestors, and when we give birth, God lives in our children.

David, the king, listens to God in 2 Samuel: “And I will appoint a place for my people Israel . . . and I will give you rest from all your enemies . . . when your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring . . . I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me . . . your throne, David, shall be established forever.’ ”

In other words, as it says in the Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers (2009): “Yes, the Lord resides in the ark of the covenant and in tabernacles in our synagogues and churches, but the Lord also resides in the hearts of the Chosen People.”

“Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love —
but who was God.”

— Denise Levertov, Annunciation (The Stream and the Sapphire — Selected Poems on Religious Themes)


Strachan is married with three grown children and lives in Nakusp, B.C. She is a Benedictine Oblate with St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Sask., and a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.