In part as an extension of Leah Easley’s fine piece in the Spring Edition of the All Saint’s Center for Theology, let us further meditate on Mary the Mother of Jesus’ relation to Lent. For the liturgical calendar provides a striking respite to the fast season of Lent with one of the Church’s great feasts in the Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary this Friday, March 25.
The Feast of the Annunciation is that day on which the Church commemorates the scene from Luke 1:26-38 when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she would bear the God-Man Jesus. Further, the feast celebrates not just the announcement, but the actual coming upon Mary by the Holy Spirit, such that on this very day, Christ was conceived in her womb (not incidentally, it is nine months to the day that we get… you guessed it, Christmas).
Now, aside from the chronological relationship to Christmas, why is it indeed fitting to meditate on the moment of the Incarnation during Lent? Of course, Lent is a season of preparation for the dramatic events in our Lord’s life during Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through his death on Good Friday to his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Church has long used this season to focus on the mysteries of our salvation, and contemplating the mystery of our salvation starts in no place but in meditating on the depths and depravities of our own sinfulness.
And here it is, the reason for the day, the reason for the Annunciation, the reason for the Incarnation: Christ came to save sinners. Thomas Aquinas relates Augustine’s comment on Luke 19:10, “If man had not sinned, the Son of Man would not have come.” So, it is in fact our sorry fault that Christ had to descend from heaven. It is our sorry fault that Christ took the “form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” It is, as the Nicene Creed says, “For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
Thus, this Friday, let us take a reprieve from our Lenten fasting, but let us hold the cause of this feast firmly in mind on this and all the days of Lent.