Each week, we reflect on one of the events from the life of Jesus Christ that make up the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.
Now, after we’ve covered what the Mysteries are and how to integrate them with the vocal prayers of the Rosary, we’ll get into the Mysteries themselves. And we shall start at the beginning, with THE ANNUNCIATION.
The event of the Annunciation, a word that means “announcement” or “proclamation,” is described in Scripture in the Gospel According to Luke 1:26-38. But every event of the Old Testament leads to this moment, and the cosmic implications of this event make up the rest of the New Testament, and indeed the rest of history itself. So what happened?
The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Which might seem an odd thing to focus on. After all, the events as they happened: the Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary in Nazareth (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”), the angel’s fantastic greeting and announcement, Mary’s profound humility (“How can this be?”), her “fiat” her complete “Yes!” to God, all of these are, in and of themselves, good substance for meditation (and we’ll return to them in the future). But if we look at how the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we see that the liturgical fruit of Her millennia of meditation on this mystery, is the celebration of the Incarnation and its implication for us.
Let’s take some of the Mass propers, the parts of the Mass unique to the day, for the Annunciation:
Collect (Opening Prayer): O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature. Who lives …
Prayer over the Offerings: Be pleased, almighty God, to accept your Church’s offering, so that she, who is aware that her beginnings lie in the Incarnation of your Only Begotten Son, may rejoice to celebrate his mysteries on this Solemnity. Who lives …
Prayer after Communion: Confirm in our minds the mysteries of the true faith, we pray, O Lord, so that, confessing that he who was conceived by the Virgin Mary is true God and true man, we may, through the saving power of his Resurrection, merit to obtain eternal Joy. Through … (all emphases added)
and in the rubrics for the solemnity there’s a great little note for when the Creed is said “At the words and was incarnate, all genuflect.“
Through all the visible events and Mary’s faith (which makes up the content of the Mass readings), the Incarnation is held up as what is truly celebrated in the Annunciation.
So what of the Incarnation, itself a mystery too deep to be contained in one decade, that the Church celebrates in the Annunciation can we focus on for our meditation? Well, for today let’s take another look at the Collect from the Mass:
O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature. Who lives …
There are echoes here from another part of the Mass, during the Preparation of the Gifts. After the priest or deacon has poured the wine into the chalice, he adds a little water and says quietly (which is why the congregation never hears it during Mass), “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
The phrase “partakers of the divine nature” reflected in the collect and worded as “to share in the divinity of Christ” from the prayer at the mixing of the water and wine, come from the Second Letter of Peter 1:4. What does it mean? Well, at the Resurrection when our bodies arise Transfigured “what we shall be has not yet been revealed. [but] We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). And to be like him, is to share in that which makes the Son of God, God. It means that the Son of God became Man not only to redeem us from slavery to Sin and Death, but by His incarnation, in which he humbled himself to our human nature, he, in turn, shares with us his divine nature, his “glory and excellence” (2 Pt 1:3).
The Annunciation that we’re meditating on—the moment of the Incarnation of the Lord—is the moment when God not only announces that he shall save us from Powers and Principalities, and it is not just a promise that he shall reign over all in righteousness; it is the moment when, as he took on the “reality of human flesh,” he pledged to us a share in his divine nature.
The Church fathers were so floored by this that their language, attempting to describe this consequence of the Incarnation, quoted in the Catechism, seems not just hyperbolic, but almost heretical:
460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” [St. Irenaeus] “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. [St Athanasius] “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” [St Thomas Aquinas]
THIS is the content of the Annunciation. This is the promise behind Jesus telling us “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:10) and St Paul saying “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is the image which is reflected perfectly in the final Mystery of the Rosary, the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth—if we accept in Faith the Incarnation of our Lord proclaimed at the Annunciation, that Jesus Christ is True God and True Man, become his disciple, take up our cross, and follow his commandments, we shall share in God’s Lordship over Creation.
To meditate on the Mysteries of the Life of Jesus Christ is to lead us on the same journey to which he calls each and everyone of us. So starting with your meditation on the Annunciation, in which the promise is announced, make that next firm footstep in the Way that is Jesus Christ, sure of the destination ahead: the glory fulfilled at the end of our Meditations, to partake in the divinity of the one who humbled himself to our humanity.
I’d say that was worth thinking about for the space of 10 Hail Mary’s.
So go! pray the Rosary and in the words of St Paul “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power … to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).