Condescension of Compassion: The Annunciation Reveals the Meaning of Life
Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence.
What Pope St Leo called the "Condescension of Compassion" invites us. Mary's Response Reveals the Mystery and Meaning of Life. "What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us." (St. Gregory of Nyssa)
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar. This year, the great Feast was supplanted by the 5th Sunday of Lent so we celeberate it today, March 26, 2012. In the Office of Readings we find an excerpt for Pope St Leo the Great inviting us to reflect on the profound implications of this Feast. God's greatest gift to us. The Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, invites a response of "Yes" to our own vocation - and Mary shows us the way.
Pope St Leo writes: "He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself."
This "Condescension of Compassion" reveals the Merciful Love of God and invites a response of surrendered love. Thus, the Feast of the Lord is also a Feast of Our Lady. Her 'Yes" is the prototype of all vocational responses to such a great act of Love. Another great father of the Church, St Gregory of Nyssa, invites us more deeply into the mystery with these words:
"What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us." (St. Gregory of Nyssa)
It is interesting to note that when the Solemnity falls during Lent, we break with our Lenten fast. Canon # 1251 of the Code of Canon Law reads "Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday."
So, we do not fast - we feast. Why? Because the Solemnity takes precedence over even our Lenten observance. This importance should invite us to consider again the mystery of Mary's cooperation in God's plan and our cooperation in God's plan. In the midst of all of the challenges we face as Catholic Christians in a Culture which has forgotten God, we celebrate God's loving plan and remember the heart of the Christian message, conversion through Jesus Christ.
The great event of the Annunciation reveals the path to salvation and to cultural recovery. The little Virgin of Nazareth teaches us how to live our real lives in a real world! When the Angel of the Lord appeared, bearing the message and calling her to a special mission, she said "YES." We must say "Yes" as well and believe that "nothing is impossible with God." Let's consider her response to the message: "I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word." It is in these words that we discover the heart of the Christian vocation.
"What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ´we no longer know Christ according to the flesh´, but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us." Gregory of Nyssa
When Mary spoke those words, human history was forever changed. They came from a deep spiritual reservoir within the heart of a young Jewish girl who was in love with the God of her fathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Mary´s "Yes" is called the Fiat: in Latin, "Let it be done."
Mary´s Fiat was spoken from a heart filled with love for God. In the Biblical context, "heart" is a word that means much more than the fleshy organ at the center of our chest cavity. It refers to our center, the core of each of us, the place where our deepest identity is rooted, and from which our fundamental choices about life are made. Mary´s words proceeded from a humble heart.
This young woman was not full of herself, not self-protective, not cynical, she was emptied, in order to be filled. She was therefore able to completely surrender herself in love, to Love. Her initial assent to the Angel Gabriel´s announcement reveals the very meaning of another Biblical word, "holy". holiness is not about looking pious. It is about being selfless. Mary was holy, and she shows us the way to become holy, too.
In the original languages, the words in Holy Scripture which are translated into the English word "holy" mean set apart or consecrated, entirely dedicated to God´s service, given over to God and His worship. If we want to be holy, we need to explore the meaning of these words and make them our own. We are also called to be set apart for the living God. We are to make a place for Him within ourselves and within the world. We are to bear His message through a lifestyle that radiates His love.
It is only by being set apart and consecrated that our own personal histories can be truly transformed. This happens through conversion, or "metanoia", which, in Greek, means "to change." Our hope for change, for becoming holy, is to open our lives to the One who is the source of all goodness and holiness, Jesus Christ. We are called to respond to His invitation, to say "Yes" to a relationship with Him.
This is what Mary´s Fiat is all about. In saying Yes to God, as Mary did, we are able to discover the path to conversion, to holiness, to authentic spirituality. Our call to embrace the Fiat and to make it our own is not a formula for easy spiritual growth, nor is it the first in a series of steps that lead to solving the problems of life. The spiritual life is a path, a Way, and it involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord.
He has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary´s Fiat, her Magnificat, and her way of life. When we embrace Mary´s Prayer and make it our own, we allow the Love that Mary bore in her body to be incarnated in and through us, too.
Each of us can say "Yes" to God, right now, wherever we are. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a Fiat of surrendered love. When we do so, our positive response marks the beginning of a participation in the very life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of the Most High and enter into the life of the living God. In Him we find our deepest identity, our real selves, through our participation in the One who made us, who redeems us, and who transforms us by His continual grace.
Conversion begins when we say Fiat with our words and our deeds. It introduces to us a new and dynamic way of living with God, and in God. As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again, made new and completed. This holy exchange-our life for His-is the essence of the spiritual journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, true spirituality is about surrender.
Mary teaches us how to live. Her way is to become an ark within, to open herself to the Word of God and allow Him to make His home within her. It is the same loving Word who became incarnate within her who now takes up His residence within us. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say "Yes" to Him. Mary invites us to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God´s Word, to become vessels of His Love, for the sake of world.
This Feast is an an invitation to live redemptively. The ongoing re-creative and redemptive work of God´s love continues through each one of us individually and in the communion of the Church which is his body. We are invited throughout our life to learn how to become arks, or dwelling places, through which Incarnate Love comes alive for all those around us. We are invited to respond with our own "yes", daily, even hourly, by living a life of surrendered love. We enter more fully into the mystery of the Incarnation as we respond the same way Mary did: "Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word."
Mary, in her selflessness, was open to the angel´s visit. She recognized who was speaking. She listened, received and responded. In so doing, she shows us the way to respond to the Lord's call in our own lives. God initiates a relationship and we respond in surrender to Him. This dynamic, this heavenly road, leads to a dialogue, a conversation, a communion, a new way of life. By saying Yes, giving our own Fiat. Mary shows us the way to live our lives to the full by living them surrendered to Jesus Christ.
What Pope St Leo calls the " Condescension of Compassion" invites our response today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Mary's Response Reveals the Mystery and Meaning of Life. For more reflections on Mary's "Yes" as a model for every Christian, visit "Mary, Mother of God"
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people: That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »