As you relax into listening, try to become aware that God is near
For a few moments of stillness, settle yourself into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and imagine all your worries, distractions and concerns fading away. Allow yourself to become quiet within. Mary’s heart was still and open to hear the message of the angel. Listen attentively to the different sounds you hear around you and to the inner voice within. Maybe you can hear your own heartbeat. As you relax into listening, try to become aware that God is near, within you, speaking a message to you today and making a home in your heart right now. This is a moment of Visitation for you.
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Think about this story for a little while. What must this have been like for Mary? Here was an ordinary young girl, not yet married, who was being told that she was about to become pregnant in a most extraordinary way. One would have expected that she would have protested that she could not go through with such a plan. What would she tell her fiancé? What would she tell her parents, the neighbours, other people? What would everyone think? And so on. But all she did was ask a very simple question: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Isn’t that extraordinary? All she wanted to know was how such a thing was possible. And once the angel had explained to her that this would happen through the power of the Most High, Mary immediately accepted, without a single complaint about all the trouble that it would undoubtedly cause her: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Mary’s trust in God was so great that she was prepared to put aside all her dreams and plans about how her life would unfold and step out into a place of huge uncertainty, into a situation over which she would have no control. New beginnings can be frightening to us. We like certainty and we do not like stepping outside our comfort zone. Yet that is often the place where the most wonderful things can happen, as Mary’s story shows us.
Talk to God
• Since beginning this retreat, have I become aware of the visit of an angel in my own life? Angels come in all shapes and sizes! Have I become aware of any inner invitation to step outside my comfort zone and into the unknown, perhaps by facing up to something unhealthy in my life or in my relationships? Am I perhaps afraid to take the first necessary step? Do I prefer to stay in the safety of what is familiar, even when I can see that things need to change? I talk to God honestly about this, not concealing my fears either from God or from myself. I ask for the gift of trust.
• As I reflect on the situation in which Mary found herself, I can see that sometimes a new beginning is hidden in the ending of something else. All the plans Mary must have had for her own life had suddenly ended with the angel’s visit. I reflect now on times when my own life has taken unexpected and unwelcome or alarming turns. Perhaps I have suffered a sudden bereavement, an illness, the break-up of a relationship, or the loss of a job or even of my home? I ask God to help me to see the possibility of a new beginning that is hidden in what might seem to be an ending. I ask God to help me to accept the twists and turns my life takes.
• An encounter with an angel brings a transformative energy that empowers us. We are not alone. God never asks us to do something on our own but “overshadows” us. Let’s sit for a while in silence with God and allow ourselves be overshadowed.