The Conversation Between Mary and the Angel

November 21, 2012

A reflection on the conversation between Mary and the angel
Diocesan Convention, November 16, 2012
Luke 1:26-38

The angel stands before Mary, waiting. He has said the words he was sent to say: "Greetings, favored one"...and..."do not be afraid"...and..."you will bear a son". It is Mary's turn to speak, to say "yes" to God. It is time for her to rejoice.

She has already asked the question "how can this be?" and the angel has reassured her, "nothing is impossible with God". So she must be ready now to say the words that will make the new things come to pass. She must say the words that will bring Christ into the world.

But the angel sees doubt cascade down Mary's face. He begins to wonder ... she will say yes, won't she? Time stops for the angel as he waits. Time stops for Mary as she regards the angel, and tries to choke down her fears. Time stops in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth as all of Creation leans in to listen for Mary's answer.

While waiting - he has all the time in the world - the angel remembers women that came before. He is in the garden, and Mary is Eve looking into the eyes of the serpent. He is in the tent, and Mary is Sarah laughing when she hears that she will bear a son. He is at the shore of the sea, and Mary is Miriam singing her song. She is Deborah, and Judith. She is the nameless women who heard and responded to God's call. We who watch the scene from the outside realize that she is us. But how will she answer?

The angel realizes two things in the moment, in the waiting. The first: how small and frail humans are. The second: how full of the breath of God they are. He is struck both by Mary's finitude and by her almost boundless capacity.

He waits, while the trees stand on their tiptoes to get a peek. While the birds stop singing and listen. While Elizabeth, Mary's cousin feels her baby kick. An old man on the street outside senses nothing and curses at his daughter.

Mary speaks. She will soon be the God bearer. She will later be a prophet, and a pillar of the church. She will one day be the Queen of Heaven. In this moment she is a startled young woman. She says the words though she can't now know what they will mean: "here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word."

And the conversation is over, though it has just begun.

The angel smiles and turns away, as he feels the world ... shift.The dwelling of God is among mortals.

Mary senses nothing. She sits for a time, then goes back to her work. But she knows that something new is beginning.

The scene fades away and we who watch are left with the question: what will we say when the messenger turns his gaze on us? What will we say when we are asked to bring Christ into the world?

--Scott Lybrand