PRAISED BE JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH!
The angel was sent to Mary and greeted her: Hail! Full of grace! The Lord is with you! He did not greet her with the usual Shalom – peace be with you – but with the Greek word “chaire” which literally means “rejoice!” Pope Benedict says: “This exclamation from the angel marks the true beginning of the New Testament.” The New Testament begins with this word: Rejoice!
Gabriel’s greeting to Mary reminds us of the prophecy of Zephaniah 3:14-17: “Rejoice, daughter of Zion; shout, Israel…the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.” In this prophecy, the reason for the rejoicing of the daughter of Zion is that “the Lord is in your midst.” Literally, it means “the Lord is in your womb” alluding to a passage in the Book of Exodus which speaks of God dwelling in the ark of the Covenant as dwelling “in Israel’s womb” (Ex 33:3 and 34:9)
Thus, Mary appears as the Daughter of Zion in person. The prophecies are fulfilled in her as she becomes the Ark of the Covenant in which the Lord takes up his dwelling. “The Holy Spirit will come down upon you, and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The words of the angel reminds us of the Shekinah, the thick cloud which descended on the Temple in order to hide and point out the presence of the Lord at the same time. it is with such terms that the Incarnation is described. As the presence of the Lord descended upon the temple, so does the Spirit of God descends upon Mary. As the Lord takes up his dwelling in the Temple, so does the Son of God take up his dwelling in the womb of the Virgin. This is the reason why we must rejoice. Never has God been closer to man. He literally pitched his tent among us by assuming human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mother. He chose to come down from heaven. He chose to become man. He chose to dwell in Mary’s womb. He chose to do all these “for us men and for our salvation.” The Incarnation is definitely the manifestation of God’s tender love for us. Now we definitely know that God loves us. He sent us his Son to save us. In the Incarnation, God says “yes” to man.
However, the Incarnation is definitely God’s gift which he offers and which Mary must accept. It was a tremendous gift that placed itself at the disposal of human freedom. He did not force himself. He had to knock at Mary’s door. He had to wait for Mary to open that door and welcome him in. His power is tied to the “yes” of a human being. Here God humbles himself before a humble Virgin. Mary becomes mother through her “yes.” She declares: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” She said “yes” to the “yes” of God. She accepts the Word. She opens the door to him and welcomes him. Through her obedience, the Word entered into her and became fruitful in her. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The all-powerful Word, through whom everything was created and by whom everything exists, makes himself so small in order to dwell in Mary’s womb. He emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a human slave, the form of a little child in Mary’s womb. The Creator dwells in his creature. Mary declared her lowliness. God made himself ever lowlier. And so began the work for our salvation.
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.