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May 15, 2019

Mary’s May Crowning: Part 1, the Annunciation

Dr. Andrew Swafford

This is the first part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into the mysteries of the Rosary where Mary was mentioned in the Scripture passage—thereby reflecting on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels.

The first mystery we will reflect upon is the Annunciation from St. Gabriel, the archangel.

For more on Mary’s spirituality, pre-order Ascension’s book, How to Pray Like Mary

The Annunciation

Mary stands here at the turn of salvation history, embodying the faithful of Israel and making way for the Messiah. In fact, the angel’s greeting “Hail” (χαῖρε) is the exact same as that given to Daughter Zion in the Greek version of Zephaniah 3:14. This is significant because “Daughter Zion” in the prophets generally refers to the eschatological people of God—that is, the people of God as God has called them to be; Mary, then, embodies this glorious radiance which God has always destined for his people. And the Zephaniah passage continues: “The King is in her midst” (Zephaniah 3:15); indeed, in the Annunciation the King is in her midst, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin (see Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, Daughter Zion, pages 42-3).

Annunciation Carl Heinrich Bloch

Moreover, the angel doesn’t address Mary by name, but rather astonishingly as:

Hail, full of grace.”

This breathtaking greeting offers a glimpse of the grandeur of the Incarnation, as seen from heaven’s vantage point.

Further, the phrase “the Lord is with you,” used by the angel with reference to Mary, occurs throughout the Bible in order to indicate God’s presence and support for accomplishing his mission, as for example with Moses (Exodus 3:12), Joshua (Joshua 1:5, 9), Gideon (Judges 6:12), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8). This means that Mary, too, stands on the cusp of some great moment in salvation history. And Mary responds with unflinching faith:

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

(Luke 1:38)

In a sense, God’s plan hinges on the faith and obedience of the Virgin Mary; and for that, all generations call her “blessed” (Luke 1:42).

Sometimes much is made of the distinction between Jesus’ physical family and his spiritual family—the latter marked by those who “hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21; 11:27-28). But a distinction need not entail a separation; and in fact, St. Luke portrays Mary as the one who quintessentially “hears the word of God and does it” (see Luke 1:38-39; 2:19, 51); in other words, she goes before us as model disciple and embodiment of the Church; and in Luke’s sequel (Acts of the Apostles), she is there persevering to the end with the disciples (Acts 1:14).

May we follow Mary’s path of saying “yes” to the Lord from beginning to end:

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

(Luke 1:37)

For Luke’s narrative of the Annunciation, read Luke 1:26:38.


In what way have you said yes to God lately as Mary did at the Annunciation, allowing his grace to flow into your life?

You May Also Like:

Mary: Mother of God (video)

The Annunciation: ‘Greatest Event in Our History’

Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother (study program)

About Andrew Swafford

Dr. Andrew Swafford

Dr. Andrew Swafford is associate professor of theology at Benedictine College. He is general editor and contributor to The Great Adventure Catholic Bible, published by Ascension. Swafford is author of Nature and GraceJohn Paul II to Aristotle and Back Again, and Spiritual Survival in the Modern World. He holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and a master’s degree in Old Testament & Semitic Languages from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Academy of Catholic Theology, and a senior fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He lives with his wife Sarah and their four children in Atchison, Kansas.

Keep an eye out for his latest project with Ascension, a new Romans study which will arrive in the summer of 2019.

Featured painting, The Annunciation, by El Greco (1541-1614), sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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  • For many of us, we look to Jesus, Mary, and the saints as models of what can be done…but don’t think we are capable of accomplishing anything for God on earth as they did…when in fact that may not be what God is calling us to do at all…He may be just wanting us to learn to say “Yes” to whatever it is He puts in our path….It is easy to think of Mary as capable of great things, because she was full of grace…but she was merely, sixteen or so when she encountered the angel…a young woman inexperienced in the way of the world; being young I can see her as praying and following her faith in a childlike way…certainly not rigidly instructed as we think we need to be today…and yet this is the one God chose to be the Mother of His Son!! God surprises me with how He chooses His own…”Not as man chooses, do I choose.” So, when we become discouraged and think we can’t be a Saint, or follow in Jesus’ or Mary’s footsteps, we can look to how Jesus chose the apostles, how God chose Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and the other prophets…and be encouraged…For He can also, choose us…but with that “Yes” comes not only joy, but suffering…even Mary suffered her share of sorrows…right from the beginning…yet, she kept them hidden in her heart…not that they were hidden as in unknown; or we wouldn’t know about them today…but they were hidden, in that she kept her pain to herself, not taking it out on others…And this is the greatest lesson for me…as I am not very good at this!! Pray for us, Blessed Mother, for we have recourse to Thee!!

  • I believe our Blessed Virgin Mary did live her life in a strict (rigid) adherence to the Jewish customs of the times. We can see by her example, what a devout, and faithful, and grace filled young Jewish girl she was. Her parents Anne and Joachim presented her in the temple as a young girl. She clearly knew the Hebrew Scriptures and responded accordingly when the angel appeared before her when she gave her fiat. She and Joseph followed the letter of the law having their son properly circumcised, naming him Jesus as the angel instructed. And also presenting herself at temple forty days after Jesus’ birth for her ritual cleansing. I believe it is precisely BECAUSE she was devout, and followed the letter of the law that she enjoyed the freedom to have ultimate faith in her Father’s plan for her life. As we all know in Mary’s life, she had to continue saying “yes” to God’s plan of salvation as revealed to her throughout our Lord’s death and resurrection. I am so very humbled and grateful for Our Blessed Mother’s example. She provides for me, the know how to live God’s plan for my life.

    • Blessed Mary’s yes to God. She gave herself in full to God. Faith Hope and,Love . She knew it all. God loves you Blessed Mother!

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