The prayers of my childhood have been coming back to me a lot lately. One of those prayers is especially on my mind this Advent: the Angelus. In school, we would recite this prayer at noon everyday to help prepare ourselves for what it means to receive Christ. Roman Catholics insert the “Hail Mary” between each set of statements, but I’m finding myself just meditating on the words of the stanzas.
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
As I think about these words, I’m broken. Mary was told God’s will, and immediately life began growing in her body. I have to ask, when God declares that He wants to share Himself through me, do I immediately allow Him to conceive — to start growing — good within my very body? Do I allow Him to increase and allow myself to decrease? Do I allow His good creation to break into reality?
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Mary’s response was that she was the handmaid of the Lord. Do I think of myself as the handmaid of the Lord? Or do I think of myself as the spouse of the Lord, who gets to converse with Him about upcoming plans first? Do I allow Him to live and move and have His being in me? Or do I wait, holding back the good God has because it’s too sacrificial?
And the Word was made Flesh.
And dwelt among us.
When we got to this stanza, we always paused for ten seconds. We honored, with Thanksgiving, that Jesus wanted to be with us. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt as she held the infant Jesus? If she silently held him, in thanksgiving and awe that He would choose to be with her? I think of how many times I’ve felt a tug of prayer — a tug to be intimate and alone with Jesus — this year and how I’ve brushed it away. I think of the gift of intimacy with Christ and how it becomes a reality. How this relationship with Christ becomes more real than any human relationship I have. I think about what it feels like when my Best Friend walks with me and dwells in my everyday life. And how very grateful I am that the veil between heaven and Earth doesn’t hold Him back. And unexpectedly, I’m reminded of how much I love Him, and how much He loves me.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord.
The church prays for grace to pour forth — Grace to know and understand and believe that God has come and is coming again to inhabit the world. That Goodness, and Grace, and Light, and Love will reside with us in Immanuel. I’m so tender to that hope, and yet, until I meditate on that truth, I am so prone to forget it.
I hope this 12th century prayer helps you connect with the God that knows you and loves you today.