1. Let us try, through the inspired narrative of St. Luke (Gosp: I, 26-38), to enter into the dispositions of Mary's soul at the time of the Annunciation. The Angel sent by God finds the Virgin recollected in solitude, and "being come in," says to her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." At these words, according to the sacred text Mary is "troubled"; we must not, however, take this phrase to mean real disturbance, which destroys the peace of the spirit; it means rather a profound astonishment at this unusual greeting, an astonishment so great as to cause a kind of fear. This is Mary's first reaction to the angelical message, a reaction arising from her deep humility, which makes her think this extraordinary eulogy very strange.
Meanwhile the Angel communicates to her his great message: God wishes her to become the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary had always lived under the continual direction of the Holy Spirit and under His inspiration had made a vow of virginity; therefore, she was convinced that she should remain a virgin and that this was God's will. But now God lets her know that He has chosen her to be the Mother of His Son, and she, humble handmaid that she is, is ready to adhere to the divine plan. However, she does not yet understand how she can be at the same time a mother and a virgin, and she questions the Angel on this point: "How shall this be done?" The Angel explains: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." Her maternity will be direct work of the Holy Spirit and will respect her virginity.
The will of God is then entirely clear to Mary, and she, who during her whole life has always been moved by the divine will alone, accepts it immediately, with an entire adherence and a most intense pure love: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Thy word." The total acceptance is accompanied by a total donation: Mary accepts by offering herself, and she offers herself by giving herself. She offers herself as a servant, or rather, as a slave, if we take the word in the full sense of the Greek text; she gives herself by abandoning herself as a prey to the divine will, accepting by anticipation everything that God may ask of her. Her adherence to Him is both active and passive: Mary wills all that God wills, and she accepts all that He does. Thus Mary appears as the model of a soul completely united to God, fully given up to His divine will.
2. The Angel's explanation does not prevent many future events and circumstances form remaining hidden and obscure to Mary. She finds herself face to face with a mystery, mystery which she knows intuitively to be rich in suffering; for she has learned from the Sacred Scriptures that the Redeemer will be a man of sorrows, sacrificed for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, the ineffable joy of the divine maternity is presented to her wrapped in a mystery of sorrow: to be willing to be the Mother of the Son of God means consenting to be the Mother of one condemned to death. Yet Mary accepts everything in her fiat: in the joy, as well as in the sorrow of the mystery, she has but one simple answer: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." By this acceptance, the Blessed Virgin becomes intimately associated with the life of suffering of her Son Jesus, and, therefore with His work of Redemption, thus becoming the spiritual Mother of the human race. This is the divine plan for her, and Mary accepts it wholly, without reserve, precisely because her will is wholly united to the will of God.
Every Christian receives a vocation from God, a mission to fulfill, by means of which he is called to participate in the redemptive work of Jesus. For the souls consecrated to God, this mission always finds its culminating point in a task of spiritual paternity or maternity. Oh, if every soul would respond to the divine appeal by as complete an acceptance as Mary's "Ecce ancilla Domini....Fiat!" Behold the handmaid of the Lord....Be it done!
Many times in the course of our life we have received invitations from the Lord - and we shall certainly continue to receive them - invitations to suffering, to sacrifice, to the gift of self. How have we corresponded? Perhaps the thought of the fatigue and suffering which we would have to embrace has held us back. Let us try, in the future, to keep the eyes of our soul open to the light of faith, so that, like Mary, we shall understand that it is through suffering that God calls us to collaborate with Jesus in the sanctification of souls.
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Not only is God the Son with you, to whom you gave your blood, but also God the Holy Spirit, by means of whose operation you conceived, and also God the father, who generated form all eternity Him whom you conceived. The Father, who gives you His Son, is with you; the Son is with you, who, wishing to accomplish a prodigious mystery, conceals Himself in your maternal bosom without violating your virginal integrity; the Holy Spirit is with you, who, together with the Father and the Son, sanctifies you. God is truly with you" (St. Bernard)......
O Mary, by the ineffable mystery which was accomplished in you I beg you to teach me and help me always to open wide the door of my soul to every divine appeal, to every solicitation of grace. At each manifestation of the divine will, may I repeat with you a humble, prompt, "Ecce, fiat!