An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Annunciation: An Important "Yes" to Life and to the Gift of Motherhood

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation [1], the “announcement” given to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Lord:

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

. . .

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 30-31, 38).

For Christians, Mary’s “yes” to the angel marks the beginning of our salvation. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. The Son of God became flesh in Mary’s womb. In this way, the Annunciation also draws our attention to the astounding mystery of motherhood and pregnancy, that brief time when the unborn child is present but hidden from view, entirely nourished by his or her mother in an incredibly intimate relationship.

Bl. John Paul II spoke beautifully about motherhood – and the Annunciation – in his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem:

Motherhood implies from the beginning a special openness to the new person: and this is precisely the woman’s “part”. In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman “discovers herself through a sincere gift of self”. [Gaudium et Spes, no. 24]

. . .

Mary’s words at the Annunciation – “Let it be to me according to your word” – signify the woman’s readiness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life (no. 18).

For John Paul, then, pregnancy and motherhood are not merely biological facts or processes. Instead, they constitute a very special sharing on the part of the mother – an openness and a welcome to the new child growing in her womb. John Paul goes on to say that this “special communion” with the unborn child “profoundly marks the woman’s personality,” developing her capacity to pay attention and attend to other persons (MD, no. 18).

The father, of course, is present too from the very beginning of a child’s life; it was the mutual gift of husband and wife in marriage that opened the couple to the gift of the child. But the father’s participation in pregnancy is in a real sense “outside” of the woman’s participation. As John Paul says, “in many ways [the father] has to learn his own ‘fatherhood’ from the mother” as he shares in her wonder and openness to the child in the womb (MD, no. 18, emphasis original).

The feast of the Annunciation provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the gift of children and the wonder of pregnancy, of mothering and fathering. We invite you to watch the short film “Made for Life,” which features married couples of various ages reflecting on openness to life, children, and their identities as fathers and mothers. The video is accompanied by a Viewer’s Guide that develops many of the points raised in the film.

 

[1] The Annunciation is normally celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas, but the fact that March 25, 2012 is a Sunday (the Fifth Sunday of Lent) means that the Annunciation is celebrated instead on March 26.

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