Speech of an angel shines in the waters of her thought like diamonds,
Rides like a sunburst on the hillsides of her heart.
And is brought home like harvests,
Hid in her house, and stored
Like the sweet summer’s riches in our peaceful barns. (Thomas Merton)
Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.” (Luke 1:34-35; context)
In all of the wondrous things the angel tells Mary about her son, Mary hangs on to the one thing that is most immediate – the process of becoming pregnant. I can see her mind’s eye filling with images of her son sitting on a throne in Jerusalem; influencing the movers and shakers in the empire; battling Israel’s oppressors; perhaps being killed in the line of duty. I know that my own mother didn’t let me play football because she was afraid I would get hurt. Imagine Mary looking into Jesus’ future, based on Gabriel’s message, and seeing the kinds of danger that come from having the power that Jesus would have.
It’s no wonder, then, that Mary latches onto the immediate problem of becoming pregnant. Holding onto to this keeps her, I think, from becoming overwhelmed with the life that the angel describes to her. Of course, Gabriel’s answer to her question about pregnancy reveals even more wonders. Apparently, it’s that kind of day for Mary.
But notice again what Luke is doing with the way he constructs his dialogue. Mary’s question reaches for normality after hearing an overwhelming proclamation about her son. Then, after her attempt to steady herself, Gabriel launches back into his speech about the wondrous manner, in which she will become pregnant.
The pregnancy is the key here. Mary’s pregnancy is miraculous, yes, because the child is conceived from the Holy Spirit. But at the same time, the act of being pregnant is one of the most normal things a woman can do. Indeed, women’s bodies are designed to carry children. In the birth of Jesus, the miraculous and ordinary interweave.
And this reminds us that in our lives, we really shouldn’t attempt to separate the mundanity from the majesty as readily as we do.
Dear God, you weave through every moment of my life, both the momentous and the monotonous. Help me to train my eyes to see that movement and to open my heart to receive your presence. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, thankful that I, too, am a player in the continued narrative of the Good News of your Son Jesus Christ.