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Mary doesn't understand what is going on; the archangel's reply to her question, "How shall this be?" is a mystery. Gabriel only assures Mary that God will overshadow her in the Holy Spirit. But Mary senses the kind of terror that comes from being in God's presence (rather than the horror that comes from being in the presence of evil). She surrenders her assured future as the wife of a carpenter named Joseph to play the unknowable part God wills for her as Mother of the Savior.
How many times must we hear this basic Gospel truth to learn it? We have been waiting for so long for God in our lives. We have sung many hymns praying for the advent of God in our lives. But have we yet learned that the word of God addressed to Mary through the Archangel Gabriel, is the same word God addresses to us: "Hail favored one, the Lord is with you." How many of us understand that God is waiting for us to say "Let it be to me according to your word," just as God waited for Mary to say it?
-- The Reverend Marie Phillips*
* Marie Phillips, a priest in the Diocese of Ohio, is Chaplain for Hospice of the Western Reserve and a Pastoral Associate for the Episcopal West Side Shared Ministries, a cluster of parishes serving the inner city