The Annunciation of the Lord, 25th March 2022
Today we celebrate incarnation. We celebrate it today as ‘story’ – part of the narrative of God’s dealings with us in the Gospel of Luke and linked by the liturgists with a further reflection from Hebrews and an earlier narrative from the prophet Isaiah. Incarnation, then, has a long history and, in the beautiful reflection on it by Pope Leo the Great which we heard last night, it is given the widest scope.
Lowliness was taken by majesty, weakness by strength, mobility by eternity.
And to its ultimate meaning:
For it must always be said that the one and the same Jesus is truly Son of God, and truly Son of Man. He is God insofar as in the beginning he was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And he is man insofar as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Now, bearing in mind the dictum of Thomas Aquinas that ‘no general rule could apply in every situation’, borrowed from Pope Francis’s reflections in Let Us Dream (p.88), how do we make this wonderful vision our own? How do we incarnate it in our lives? How do we make ‘the greatest story ever told’ part of our story, or better, how do we make our story belong to this greater story, this over-arching narrative? The dialogue with King Ahaz shows a way. It’s full of Hebrew word-play but eventually comes down to Ahaz’s unwillingness to trust himself to the greater narrative: he is afraid of all the raging forces which are besieging him and his people and wants to find a political way out, a deal with Assyria that will get him off the hook. But Isaiah wisely says that the deal he has to strike, or rather realise, is the deal already made with God, that is to trust in God’s love for his people whatever comes. So Isaiah, like Pope Francis in Let us Dream, is advising him to wait to allow for the overflow of God’s grace, to allow truth to reveal itself, as a woman awaits the birth of her child. This is the waiting we are called to in Lent as we await, not the birth of our Messiah, but his death. Who could have envisaged that this would be the way forward? But we wait and discover that all our sacrifices pale into insignificance in the light of what God has done, and is doing for us, in Christ. The one sacrifice necessary has been made:
Lowliness is taken by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by eternity.
And so today we celebrate in the light of the resurrection which is to come, that is, our resurrection into the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity because of the death and resurrection of Christ. Who could have ever envisaged such a thing?