The earliest English text on the Annunciation was by the Venerable Bede, and to celebrate today’s Feast of the Annunciation, let us spend some time in his company, meditating on this great event which truly changed history. The text in bold is the Magnificat, the commentary by Bede himself:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it, and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving. As I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that Saviour, whom I have conceived in this world of time.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Mary looks back to the beginning of her song, where she said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. Only that soul for whom the Lord in His love does great things can proclaim his greatness with fitting praise and encourage those who share her desire and purpose, saying: Join with me in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord; let us extol His name together.
Those who know the Lord, yet refuse to proclaim His greatness and sanctify His name to the limit of their power, will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven. His name is called holy because in the sublimity of his unique power He surpasses every creature and is far removed from all that He has made.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He has remembered His promise of mercy.
In a beautiful phrase Mary calls Israel the servant of the Lord. The Lord came to his aid to save him. Israel is an obedient and humble servant, in the words of Hosea: Israel was a servant, and I loved him.
Those who refuse to be humble cannot be saved. They cannot say with the prophet: See, God comes to my aid; the Lord is the helper of my soul. But anyone who makes himself humble like a little child is greater in the kingdom of Heaven.
The promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.
This does not refer to the physical descendants of Abraham, but to his spiritual children. These are his descendants, sprung not from the flesh only, but who, whether circumcised or not, have followed him in faith. Circumcised as he was, Abraham believed, and this was credited to him as an act of righteousness.
The coming of the Saviour was promised to Abraham and to his descendants forever. These are the children of promise, to whom it is said: If you belong to Christ, then you are descendants of Abraham, heirs in accordance with the promise
Thus wrote Bede more than 1400 years ago. How sad, then, that now there are some who claim the name of Christian who make the claim that Mary had no choice but to accept God’s fiat. What image of God do such people possess? It is that akin to the old gods of Greece and Rome who impregnated human women with out their consent. It is not, perhaps, then, so strange that they should fail to perceive this massive beam in their own eye whilst claiming with great shrillness that our veneration of Mary is a form of goddess worship. Christianity began with Mary’s ‘yes’ and through her heroic virtue, the Christ became incarnate and the miracle of our salvation was begun. On this day, holy to our ancestors, we celebrate, with a ‘great crowd of witnesses’ the actions of Our Lady and pray, through her, to God, that His will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven.