O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O Clovis David
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son,
so we wait for his coming in glory;
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age
to see, with her, our great salvation
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it,
the compass of the world and all who dwell therein.
For he has founded it upon the seas
and set it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord,
or who can rise up in his holy place?’
‘Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,
who have not lifted up their soul to an idol,
nor sworn an oath to a lie;
‘They shall receive a blessing from the Lord,
a just reward from the God of their salvation.’
Such is the company of those who seek him,
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
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 Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, 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.
We can be fairly certain that Mary, the one destined to be the Mother of God, was just thirteen or fourteen when Gabriel appeared to her in her home in Nazareth. Setting aside our astonishment and accepting that this would have been the cultural norm of that time and place, let us put ourselves in the place of Mary on that world-changing day.
We are told no more than: the angel Gabriel was sent by God … to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph. What must it have felt like to the young girl who was suddenly confronted with this strange visitor. We are told that he was the angel Gabriel, but what does an angel look like? How would we know that the stranger standing before us was, or was not, a true messenger from God, an angel?
Then, the angel Gabriel said to her: Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you. Assuming, as we can imply from the narrative, that Mary understood that he was from God, how must it have felt to have been addressed in this way? The humble peasant girl from the relatively obscure town of Nazareth was being greeted as one favoured by God himself. Did Mary pause and wonder, or was she already prepared to offer her all in the service of God, no matter what he might be asking of her?
Then, comes the core of the message: you will conceive in your womb and bear a son … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Mary, if she paused to think about this message would have understood the danger she would be in if she accepted the challenge that was being laid before her by Gabriel, the messenger from God. To become pregnant outside of marriage was punishable in one way, stoning to death.
Then, Mary uttered those amazing words of commitment, discipleship and true faith: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Mary, the simple, young peasant girl, did not question. Instead she offered her all to God’s will. No matter what danger she may come to face, Mary said, ‘Yes!’ to God, and human history changed for ever.
Let us pray that we might know ourselves to be favoured in the eyes of God. Let us pray that we might always be ready to copy Mary in the simplicity and honesty of our response to God’s call in our lives. Let us pray that we might set aside human indifference and suspicion and accept that God wants us to be his servants too. Let us pray that we might never hesitate, but always be ready to say: Here am I; let it be with me according to your word.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray with hearts and minds open to hear the message of God.
Inspire the Church with the faith and obedience of Mary, so that all who profess the faith of Christ may truly honour and serve him. In all our work and worship teach us to remember that nothing is impossible with God.
May the power of the Holy Spirit overshadow the nations of the world, creating peace where there is war, love where there is hatred. Bring new hope to those in power who are weary of conflict but despair of resolution.
We pray for mothers, and for all women soon to give birth. As Mary heard the message of the angel, may we all have grace to hear when we are called to offer them help and comfort.
Give strength and patience to those who wish for children and have none. Guide them to see your will in all things. Look with compassion on women who suffer difficult labour, and grant them relief.
We remember those who responded to the calling of God in this world and heard at last the call to life eternal, giving thanks that they have come into the joy of heaven with the blessed Mary and all the saints.
Accept our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, announced by an angel, born of a virgin, entering humanity for our salvation.
Father in heaven, the day draws near
when the glory of your Son will make radiant
the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.