Throughout world history there have been many unique and amazing women who are remembered for their contributions to humanity. There have been scientists like Madame Curie, who was awarded two Nobel Prizes, one in chemistry for her work with radiation and one for peace. There have been unlikely heroic leaders like Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who, by divine guidance, led the French Army to numerous victories during the Hundred Years War. There were influential writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe whose novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” drew attention to the issues of slavery in the United States and gave support to the abolitionist movement.
There is one woman however, who is remembered everyday by billions of people around the world. It is Mary the Mother of our Lord. Every day she is remembered by name in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. She is remembered by Roman Catholics who pray the Rosary, repeating the Ava Maria.
She is remembered today on the Church calendar as we observe the “Annunciation of our Lord.” This is the day set aside to commemorate the visitation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth. He announced to her that she would be the mother of the Christ. The date is traditionally set at March the 25th, which is exactly nine months before Christmas Day. (When the date falls on a Sunday, the commemoration is moved to the following Monday.)
Whether you are Protestant or Roman Catholic, Scripture makes it very clear that she is the most unique of all women ever born. She was chosen by God to bear His Son. She gave birth to Jesus, “the only begotten Son of God.” There are many titles that have been given to Mary by the Church. The vast majority of these titles were given to say more about her son than about her.
Although her son Jesus is born as a human, he is also God incarnate in human flesh. Therefore Mary is given the title “Mother of God.” This title was given as a proclamation of the identity of her son. In the Eastern Church she is given the title of Theotokos, which means “Bearer of God.” Again, this title speaks of the glory of her son, who is the fulfillment of the promise of “Emmanuel”, God with us. Even the title, “Mother of our Lord,” tells us more about who Jesus is than it tells us about her.
Even the title “Blessed Virgin Mary,” which comes from Luke 1:28 (blessed are you among women) and Luke 1:48 (henceforth all generations shall call me blessed), tells us very little about Mary herself. Some have noted that she is the first person to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and as such should be called the “First Disciple” or the “Model Disciple”. With no thought for herself, or what might happen to a betrothed woman who happens to be pregnant, she was willing to follow God’s will. She was willing to bear whatever shame or grief might befall her in this situation. She had no idea what Joseph would do, or how her family would react. In total obedience and surrender she placed herself in the hands of God, saying, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Regardless of what titles we use when we speak about Mary, there is much that we can learn from her relationship with God. Mary could not see the end of this great adventure with God. She had no idea what things would be required of her, nor how others would react toward her. Still, she was willing to take God at His word and submit to His will. Should not our faith be strong enough to do the same? Our prayer today should be that God would strengthen us in faith and devotion, that we might be willing to risk the ridicule of stepping out of our comfort zones and follow God’s word, as did Mary.
The painting above is titled “The Annunciation” is by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898.