Esther Sanborn ’04 M.Div.

During Advent, we honor Mary and reflect on the graced role she played in the story of our salvation. In today’s gospel, the angel announces to Mary that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, she will bear the Son of God. Mary responds by offering herself with openness to God’s will.

This is Mary’s first appearance in Scripture; what we know of Mary’s life prior to the Annunciation comes from early Christian stories and tradition about her parents, her birth and presentation in the temple, and her growth into the fullness of grace given to her at the moment of conception. These stories remind us that Mary’s offer of herself as the handmaid of the Lord was made possible by the Holy Spirit’s working throughout Mary’s life, forming her in grace and preparing her to be the Mother of God.

Reflecting on this mystery is awe-inspiring and encouraging. I imagine God working behind-the-scenes through Mary’s parents, through her friends, family and community, and through all the events—joyful and sorrowful—of her young life to accomplish our salvation. It encourages me to know that we are prepared by the Holy Spirit for the times when we need to be freely open to God’s will.

When life feels out of my control, I am called, like Mary, to surrender in grace to a will greater than my own. God prepares me through the faith-filled people and formative events of my life to be able to do so. When I do, my surrender is in communion with the whole Church, as together in Christ we offer ourselves, as Mary did most fully, to be open to God’s will.