Then the Angel departed from her.
A friend of mine recently gave a talk that emphasized this line from Luke 1. This, he said, was the scariest line in Scripture. The words that proceed it are the words most of us have heard over and over again: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary was invited into something so much bigger than herself, which in itself is frightening. Then she makes this bold statement of faith, and then the angel departed from her. No more questions, no explanation, no other answers.
Mary wasn’t given a roadmap, or a glimpse into the future. She didn’t know that she would have to give birth in a stable and then flee to Egypt to save His life. She never would have guessed that she would eventually watch her son suffer and die on a cross, only to come back from the dead three days later.
But it didn’t matter. When Mary gave her fiat, she said yes to everything that was to come, whether she knew it or not. She willingly said ‘yes’ God and in doing so, said yes to whatever would demand of her.
Like Mary, our “I do” at the altar contains a mysterious and sometimes messy reality.
When we make those promises of love we can’t know everything that will happen between then and that moment when death does us part. We don’t know how those vows will take shape. While we can dream about those good times, the bad times will inevitably come. While we can hope for health, sickness may still find its way in.
The promises I made on a spring afternoon almost three years ago look very different after two moves, big decisions, and a toddler later. And it will look even more different fifty years from now as our lives continue to unfold.
On that special day I, in a sense, made a promise to the unknown. I joyfully and willingly said “I Do” to a mystery.
And, similar to the Annunciation, it is in this mystery that Love dwells.
Love, a radical outpouring of self, is not found in knowing what is to come, but in the present. No matter how hard we try, love cannot be planned; it can only be chosen when the moment presents itself.
It is formed in those times of surrender, of joy, of consolation, and of desolation. It takes root among the laundry and dirty dishes, among the moving boxes and new jobs.
It is strengthened in the sleepless nights and early mornings, in the baby cries and smelly diapers. In wounded pride and tearful apologies, in laughter that makes your stomach hurt.
Heaven and earth intersect in a unique way when a man and woman promise themselves to the other. These earthly vows make room in our hearts for the divine, for eternity itself. Our minds cannot comprehend the depths of this Divine love we are promising. We may not understand what the words fully mean until we reach Heaven.
But like Mary we are called to say “I do” with our entire being. And like Mary, we can trust that God will give us the grace to be faithful to our call and make our “yes” truly life-giving.