Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which means that Dane and I get to have dessert tonight BUT more importantly, it means we are celebrating the moment the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she would conceive and bear the baby Jesus in her womb. This is a HUGE moment in the history of Christianity because THIS is where it all began. (This is part of the reason that us pro-lifers are ALWAYS saying that life begins at conception. )
This year, possibly because I’m pregnant for the first time, this story hits me more than ever. Here is this young single girl, who has never “known” a man but is being told that God has chosen her out of ALL the women in the world, to bear the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Mary is troubled at first, possibly because it must have been upsetting to see an angel appear to you, and also because he says the Lord has found favor with her, which she thinks is a really weird to greet someone. However, she listens to him and in the end just calmly agrees, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38.
Ok so God has just dropped this HUGE bombshell on her and instead of whining or asking Him to pick someone else (*cough cough* Moses), she just agrees to it. Handmaid can also mean servant so basically she is saying “Lord I am your servant, do what you want with me and I’ll gladly go along with it”. I’m willing to bet this was NOT an easy decision to make. First she’s just agreed to be a young, unmarried mother who just happens to be pregnant with the SON OF GOD. Then to add to her worries, she has to somehow explain to her fiancé that no, she didn’t cheat on Him, she conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, even with all of that going on she gladly agrees to what God is asking of her.
Now, I’m not going to go comparing the conception of my child and my future children, to the conception of Jesus. Those are two completely different situations. However, Mary’s willingness to accept this life into her womb is similar to the decision that married catholic couples have to face almost every time they are intimate.
When you are married in the Catholic Church, they ask you if you “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”. For some, that may mean will we one day have children, but in reality it’s not that easy. Accepting children from God means that you let Him decide when and how many of these children you will have. So essentially, you agree to give up control of a huge aspect of your of your life, one that influences pretty much every other aspect from finances to leisure.
When Dane and I got married, we agreed to let God make that decision for us. We did not use birth control but we also didn’t plan our “intimate times” around my fertility cycle. It was scary to think that every unitive act between my husband and I could change our lives as we knew them, but there is also a beauty in trusting God with that decision.
Knowing that every time we made love could possibly lead to the creation of our child, a brand new life, made every act so much more meaningful. I remember sitting there wondering afterwards if this was the time that we had (with God’s hand of course) conceived a baby. It was a scary at first, but then when I got my period after our first month as a married couple, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I cried and Dane had to remind me that since we agreed to be open to life, we had to welcome life WHEN God wanted it. That month had not been our time to conceive and we had to trust that God would decide when that time would be. I didn’t have to wait very long after that because our daughter was conceived two weeks later.
As we have more children and the stresses of life start taking their toll on us, I’m not sure Dane and I will be as open to life as we are now. I know it will get tougher to say yes to God’s plan as we worry about providing for the children we already have. But I also know that God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle and if He blesses us with a child He will give us the means to provide for it. I think it’s during those tough times that we will have to turn to our Mother Mary and ask her for the grace to gladly accept God’s will, just as she did when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.