The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Today is the solemnity of the Annunciation, when our Blessed Mother gave her trusting “Fiat” to the angel Gabriel, and changed the course of history. How wonderful!
When I try to imagine the Annunciation, it almost always ends up as a meditation on how badly I would have reacted if the angel Gabriel had shown up in front of me and given me a message like that. I can see it now:
Gabriel: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Me: WHAT NOOOOOO
Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.
Me: WHAT NOOOOOO
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
For the past year or so, I’ve been working on trusting God. This has turned out to be much, much harder than I expected. I am a worrier by nature, and it’s hard for me to “let go and let God.” This aspect of my personality, combined with some past experiences that were deeply discouraging and upsetting, led to some extreme fear of God’s will for my life. I was terrified of losing the illusion of control. I took no risks. I only loved those who I was absolutely sure loved me back. I barely prayed. Oh, I went to Mass, recited the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully, joined in the occasional Rosary. But I’m sorry to say that it was mostly out of habit and fear of God’s wrath if I neglected these things. I only sincerely prayed for one thing every day, without fail: “Please, please, God, don’t change anything about my life! I can’t handle it!” In other words: be it done unto me according to my word. I spent almost all of my time inside the carefully constructed prison of my fears and insecurities, and I might as well have been dead.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
I had somewhat of a breakthrough a few months ago because I was given the scariest, hardest penance I could think of at the time.
What was this terrible awful penance, you ask?
The sweet Italian priest downtown told me to go into the pew after he absolved me, look at Jesus in the monstrance and tell Him, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
You cannot imagine how my heart sank. Couldn’t I walk across hot coals or say a million Rosaries or something? Anything but…THAT. I proceeded to wobble out of the confessional, into the pew, and have a (thankfully, silent) crying breakdown. It might sound a bit silly, but I was terrified of letting go. Not because I believed that God would ever, ever do anything to hurt me; rather, telling Jesus I trusted Him meant that I would have to begin to forgive those who had hurt me, including myself. Especially myself.
I sat in that pew for what felt like a hundred years, shaking and sobbing and trying to summon the courage to do my penance. Father was maybe five minutes away from coming out of the confessional for Benediction, and my time was running out. Finally, finally, I forced myself to lock my eyes with the Host, and (somewhat unsuccessfully) pushing down my insecurities and fears, in my mind, I haltingly whispered the words.
(help help help)
(I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t)
(wait wait wait stop it stop it)
(too late to turn back now)
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Relief is an understatement for what I felt. I had been carrying the huge, heavy load of my imaginary future for so long, that I hardly knew what to do now that it was out of my hands. It was out of my hands. This was terrifying and exhilarating. I didn’t have to worry about Screwing It All Up, because I had given “it” to the One who loved me beyond imagination. I must have been slightly hysterical, because I began to shake with laughing sobs in the middle of Mass until at last I was utterly worn out emotionally. All that was left was gratitude. Thank you, God, for not leaving us to ourselves. Thank you, Blessed Mother, for the glorious example of your “Yes.”
I wish I could say that after that experience, I was magically able to trust God in everything ever, no matter what. Haha. No. This is something I wrestle with daily, and I will probably struggle with it for the rest of my life. In Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, there is a line about falling “into the kindly hands of the Father.” He continues, “If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you.” Even though I will certainly suffer and fall during my life, I know and believe with all my heart that no matter how often I fall, I will always fall into the kindly hands of the One who has loved me since the beginning of time, and who sent His Son into the womb of the Blessed Mother, so that I might never be parted from Him.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ, our Lord.