Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Eyewitness Account

Hot off the press from the Pauline Laity Blog:

Meister der Braunschweig-
Magdeburger Schule
Public domain, The Yorck Project
Tradition holds that St. Luke used eyewitness testimonies for his account of the Good News. The author makes this perfectly clear in his opening paragraph:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”  (Luke 1: 1- 4, NASB)

First, a confession.  Until (very) recently, and although I have read Luke's Gospel many a Christmas Eve, I never noticed this important opening sequence to his Gospel.  Eyewitness accounts change everything!  Especially when one realizes WHO he was interviewing!  Luke's rendition of Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel, her journey to Bethlehem, and Jesus' birth were not his piecing together of what might have happened but what truly DID HAPPEN!  Before now, I never realized that his use of eyewitness accounts meant that what we are reading is truly MARY'S ACCOUNT of the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity!  This was not someone's idea of what may have occurred but comes from the very source of these precious moments–Mary.  

Anyone who has ever listened to a proud mother share stories of her children, can know and believe the accuracy of Luke's retelling.  This understanding completely transformed how I engaged with Luke's Gospel–and brought me to an even deeper encounter with Christ.  Scripture is so filled with grace that with every reading we are never left the same. As Blessed James Alberione writes, "The Gospel is something divine; it corresponds to all minds; it is capable of meeting all demands, [encompassing] the full embrace of the two sisters in Christ-God: reason and faith.[1]" 

Human artists too help us to encounter Christ.  Visual and creative representations of the Word of God appeal to the senses.  They too raise us to the contemplation of the sacred mysteries.  "By means of visible things we come to the knowledge of God who is invisible," wrote Blessed Alberione, who urged his Paulines to embrace the creative arts: "Dedicate yourselves to embroidery, painting, sculpture, and make progress.  Oh, if only you had skillful painters, skillful sculptors.[2]"  "There is never piety or truth alone, but all things connected together.[3]"

In light of this revelation, I invite you to read Luke's account of the Annunciation below, broken down into dialogue from the Word of God and visual representation from artists through the ages– including the self-portrait the Blessed Virgin herself gave to St. Juan Diego.  Later, consider reading the rest of Luke over this Advent or Christmas season.   Allow yourself to be transported back to Nazareth and Bethlehem: peeking into Mary's world–and the most amazing moments in all of history.  Let these be your Advent reflections as we all await the coming of Christ, both in the season of Christmas on December 25th, 2016 … and in His second coming on a date yet to be revealed.

The Annunciation:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Public domain, Google Art Project.
28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
Sandro Botticelli - Annunciazione
Public domain, The Yorck Project
30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.
Hubert van Eyck - Annunciation
Public domain, The Yorck Project
34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Antonello da Messina - Virgin Annunciate
Public domain, The Yorck Project

35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.
Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo - The Annunciation
Public domain, The Yorck Project 

William Brassey Hole, The Annunciation
Public domain,

38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 26-38, NASB)
Photograph of Our Lady of Guadalupe tilma
Public domain, uploaded anonymously to Wikimedia Commons
Thoughts to Ponder:

                     The angel appeared to Mary amidst the ordinary of her everyday life.  Jesus wants to come to us not only in the special appointed times we set aside for him; but in every moment of our lives.
                     Mary does not doubt what God can do; but how it will be.  Her question is for clarification although she has already assented to God's Will. Mary's response allows her to be filled with God's grace and peace.
                     Verse 37 – "For NOTHING is impossible with God"such a powerful statement of faith! What in your life do you need those words spoken over?  Where do you need this reminder to restore you peace, so you too can assent to the Will of God in your life? 

May the grace of the mystery of the Annunciation come into your heart as you prepare for the coming of the Lord. May the grace of all the profound mysteries found in St. Luke's inspired recounting of Mary's holy recollections help you this Advent as you make your way to the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

[1] Alberione, Giacomo. Abundantes Divitiae Gratiae Suae, (English title: Charismatic History of the Pauline Family), 198.
[2] Alberione, Giacamo. Ipsum Audite I, 114-115. 
[3] Alberione, Giacomo. Prediche V, 119. 

Allison Gingras is the founder of (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison created the "Words with" daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus and Words with Mary. Allison offers retreats and talkson: Forgiveness; Works of Mercy; Tru