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The Annunciation

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II
in his series in the Jubilee of the Redemption
General Audience, Wednesday 23 March 1983 - also in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In two days, that is, next Friday, dearest brothers and sisters, we will celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This is a feast that has always had particular relevance in the liturgical calendar, because of the great mystery of mercy and love which it contains and expresses in itself: the mystery of the Son of God himself, who becomes the son of man assuming the flesh in the most pure womb of the Virgin Mary.

But this year the relief for the coincidence of this feast with the opening of the Holy Door is quite special: the Jubilee Year of the Redemption will start solemnly on the day destined to commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation. These are two recurrences that have an intimate connection: the Incarnation in fact is the beginning of the Redemption, and in both these mysteries the protagonist is only one, he is the same ("unus idemque"), that is, "Christ according to the flesh, he who is above all things, God blessed for ever ”(Rom 9, 5).

2. Jesus Christ - it should be noted - is the protagonist, he is always the only and true protagonist in the whole work of human Redemption. He is such from the very first moment, which is precisely that of the Incarnation, when, immediately after the announcement made by the Angel to Mary Most Holy and as a consequence of her adherence to that same announcement, "the Word became flesh and came to dwell among us (Jn 1, 14).

Therefore, the first fruit of the Redemption is the Incarnation: the Incarnate Word is now ready for the work. Indeed, upon entering the world, he can say according to truth to God the Father: “You did not want a sacrifice or an offering, but you prepared a body for me. Then I said: Behold, I come to do your will, O God ”(Heb 10, 5-7; cf. Ps 39, 7-9). And as he can be born true man in Bethlehem, so true man he can also die on Calvary. The Lord's Redemption is prepared by the Lord's Annunciation.

There in the land of Galilee, inside the humble house of Nazareth, next to the archangel Gabriel who brings the announcement (subject) and Mary who receives the announcement (term), it is he who must be glimpsed with the attentive eyes of faith: he is precisely the content of the announcement (object). We will therefore invoke and bless the Angel of the announcement; in particular we will invoke and bless Mary, calling and venerating her with the beautiful appellative of "Annunziata", so dear to popular piety; but at the center of these two characters, as a most august guest now present and active, we must always see, invoke, bless, indeed adore the announced Son of God. "Do not be afraid, O Mary ... Behold, you will conceive a son, you will give birth to him and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High ... " (Lk 1, 30-31). This, in summary, in the bare simplicity of the Gospel language, is the announcement: the virginal conception and birth of the Son of God himself.

Such an announcement, if it is brought by the Angel primarily to the Virgin Mary, is then communicated to her husband Joseph (cf Mt 1, 20-21) and transmitted, again, to the shepherds and the wise men (cf Lk 2, 10-11; Mt 2, 2): the one who is announced and is about to be born, or has just been born, is the "Saviour" and precisely in accordance with what his name means, "he will actually save his people from their sins "(Mt 1, 21). The same announcement, therefore, in the theological perspective of salvation, is directed to all humanity throughout the course of the centuries, as an announcement of ineffable joy, in which the "goodness" of the same Gospel
(= good announcement) is concentrated and realized to the letter.

3. The mystery of the Annunciation has always attracted the attention of artists and has often inspired famous pages. Suggestive - I will limit myself to this event alone - is the table by Beato Angelico which portrays the mysterious encounter between Gabriel and Mary. It almost seems that heaven and earth are waiting for this answer in the unspeakable sublimity of a transcendent communication. Yet, Jesus visibly is not there; there is, yes, his Spirit, who is about to work the great miracle by fertilizing the virginal womb of Mary; there is, yes, the power of the Most High, to whom nothing is impossible (cf Lk 1, 35-37). But Jesus, at least on the level of appearances, is not yet there. It would seem that, just as heaven and earth await Mary's response, so too the Word secretly and anxiously awaits her so as to implement
immediately the Father's eternal plan. Thus the awaited himself, the one whom the Law and the Prophets had presented as "the awaited of the Gentiles" (cf Gen 49, 10; Is 9, 5-6; Jn 1, 45), is waiting: of him the two august interlocutors are already speaking, and as soon as there is an answer, that is, when the "fiat" sounds on the lips of the Virgin, he will immediately come himself.

4. A great mystery, dearest brothers, a sublime mystery is that of the Incarnation, whose understanding is certainly not worth the weakness of our minds, unable as they are to understand the reasons for God's action.

In it we must always see, in a position of primary evidence, Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who incarnates himself, and beside him the one who cooperates in the Incarnation, giving him her own flesh with the love of a Mother. The Annunciation of the Lord, in this way, will detract nothing from the function and merit of Mary, who will be blessed together with her divine Son for centuries precisely because of her maternity.

But we will always have to see this same mystery not already detached, but coordinated and connected with all the various mysteries of the hidden and public life of Jesus, up to the other and sublime mystery of the Redemption. From Nazareth to Calvary there is, in fact, a line of orderly development, in the continuity of an undivided and indivisible design of love. It is for this reason that on Calvary we will find again Mary, who attests there precisely as Mother, watching and praying at the Cross of her dying Son, and at the same time as "partner", that is, as collaborator in his salvific work, "serving under him and with him, by the grace of almighty God, to the mystery of the Redemption "(cf. Lumen Gentium, 56).

Starting in the name of God the Holy Year of the Redemption, I hope both for you who listen to me here, as for all Christian brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world, that the passage from the scene so sweet and collected of Nazareth to the corrupt and dramatic one of Calvary
will be natural and spontaneous for you and for them, so that the relationship between all the mysteries of the life of the Son of God made man may appear inseparable and solid. By the mystery of his Incarnation and, above all, by the mystery of the Redemption he has saved us all. It will therefore be our duty, during the now imminent year of grace and forgiveness, to treasure this work, applying its divine virtue to our souls."