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FULL of GRACE

9/29/2002 - 9:00 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

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In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" (Or “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28))


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Many people are familiar with this encounter between an angel and the virgin of Nazareth named Mary.

It is taken from the pages of the New Testament of the Bible. The text has formed the words of an ancient Christian prayer called the “Angelus” which is prayed early morning, midday and evening throughout religious houses, monasteries and religious homes throughout the world.

Perhaps as children some of us recited this prayer in a Church service. Maybe we are among the many that still pause at the appointed hours every day to pray the words as a devotional practice in honor of the Incarnation.

It is repeated three times each day, morning, noon, and evening:

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“The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word…”

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It invites us to remember that scene so as to make it our own.

Picture the scene. Most historians place Mary’s age between thirteen and fifteen when this extraordinary encounter with the angel appeared.

I have had the honor of raising three daughters (along with two sons) through that season of their lives, their teenage years. I love them deeply. However, I am not sure how any of them would have responded if visited or confronted by that Angel, Gabriel, who visited Mary of Nazareth.

For that matter, I am not sure how I would have responded. However, through the Biblical account, I know how Mary of Nazareth responded and I am forever grateful.

In the Christian tradition this event is referred to as “the Annunciation.” It has become the symbolic backdrop that has inspired some of the most beautiful art work in human history depicting the event. God sent a “messenger” to announce what He was about to do, not only in Mary but in the world as a result of her response!

Both the event and her response changed all of human history. Both the event and her response can be made our own if we enter into the mystery that is the prayer of Mary and learn to live a life of surrendered love as she did. Maybe we have read this story, accepted that it occurred, but actually believed that it had no real relevance to our own lives. It is time to think again.

Can we encounter God in our own lives? Does God still visit men and women? Does he still send “angels”? Does he send them to us to speak His words to specific people?

The answer to all these questions is “Yes”!

The Latin word translated “angel” is angelu and the Greek is aggelos. Both are found in the ancient translations of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. They are both variations of a more ancient word found in the Hebrew texts of the Bible. It is literally translated as "one going" or "one sent".

Angels “go” for God. They carry His word and initiate His actions.We could also call them messengers and ministers.

Angels are mentioned throughout the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. They are also found in many texts that inform other religious traditions. In our contemporary age there is a “rediscovery” of angels and a growing interest in their actions in our midst. This is evidenced in our popular culture on television, at the Movies and in our bookstores. This interest reflects a deepening hunger for God and a desire to hear his message.

The public life, ministry and words of Jesus Christ are filled with references to the Angels. Even more present are the tales of their actions. They ministered to the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where He suffered his anguish before the final act of selfless love at Calvary. They attended to Him in the Victory of the Resurrection and announced the meaning of the event to His followers who came to the empty tomb.

In the earliest account of the New Testament Christian community called the “Acts of the Apostles” and in the letters to the early Churches, found after the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, the presence and actions of the angels are everywhere.

Finally, in the last Book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation, they are woven throughout the Biblical texts and in a very unique way their ...

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