1. Encounter with the living God
In its simplicity, the account of the Annunciation, the tidings brought to Mary, discloses a truth about man that our contemporary ears tend to hear only with difficulty: man’s existence is dialogue with God—a dialogue initiated and sought by God himself. As Dionysius eloquently put it, God “is, as it were, beguiled by goodness, by love, and by yearning and is enticed away from his transcendent dwelling place and comes to abide within all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself.”7 Dionysius’s description is true of every being, but it is particularly fitting for Mary. God, with a yearning beyond man’s comprehension, calls man into being and teaches him through beauty to recognize his presence—to believe in him—and to make room within himself for him—to hope in him—so that man, by being with the triune love, can become like God (2 Pt 1:4). Man’s dialogue with God is not a simple conversation, as we may tend to understand the word. It is a constitutive relation, that is, participation in a love that desires the other to be itself by abiding within this love. This dialogue, which can also be called prayer, “is an act of being.”8
Mary’s recitation of the psalms taught her that the one true God is a person who has a name that can be called upon and is to be honored in and above everything (Dt 6:4–6). His face is to be sought in the midst of every circumstance, because every single event is a different moment of this ongoing dialogue between God and man.9 No other creature perceived God’s greatness and her own nothingness as she did. She knew as no one else did of being “dry, wearyland without water” (Ps 62:1). Eastern iconography often depicts Mary clothed in a dark brown garment precisely to represent that she is the truth of earth: she is the humus that is perfectly aware of itself as arid land that burns in longing for the rain that will come one day to render her fruitful. She is indeed the “lowly servant” (Lk 1:48), the open vessel of longing, as the Fathers used to call her. Mary had not forgotten the promises that God repeatedly made to the people of Israel. She had faith in him, that is, she recognized his active and loving presence in the temple and history of her people. She, more radically than Abraham, waited and hoped for the fulfillment of God’s promises, without predetermining their final form.
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7Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, PG 3, 712B. English translation taken from Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, trans. Colm Lubheid and Paul Rorem (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 82.
8Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith. Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 27.
9Joseph Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 13–31.
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