Theotokos. God-bearer. A living tabernacle. Mary, the mother of God incarnate.
How could it be that a young girl, unmarried and uninterested in grandiose things, could suddenly, with one simple phrase, become the centerpiece of salvation history? Mary’s fiat, her yes to the angel’s request, implies such immense courage and such a deep understanding of God’s wisdom.
Today’s Gospel reading has been analyzed and reflected upon for centuries by Biblical scholars, inquiring agnostics, children, converts, and Christians of all denominations and degrees. For Catholics, Luke 1: 26-38 has special significance for Our Lady…and for good reason.
When asked by God’s messenger to bear the “Son of the Most High” in her womb, Mary responds in such a genuinely human way: with a question. But after being reassured that “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (a beautiful image) and that God makes all things possible, Mary asserts her faith in the Lord of her ancestors. Mary did not blindly accept God’s plans; she questioned them initially, just as any normal human would. Mary, however, unlike most, chose to see with eyes of faith that God would help her answer her questions, but in due time. She chose to wait patiently for God to bring about his gift of understanding in her life instead of anxiously worrying about her—and her new child’s—life.
Mary’s humble submission to God’s will for her life results in an incredible encounter with God within her. She becomes the new Ark of the Covenant, the new Temple of Jerusalem, the new dwelling place of God. Mary becomes the God-bearer, or the Theotokos, bringing life to all who encounter her. Many Catholics revere Our Lady for her intense connection to Jesus within her. Indeed, what a beautiful connection Mary does have with her son! However, what many don’t realize is that Jesus asks to be as close to us each day as He is to His mother. The same Messiah that formed such a close relationship with Mary from dwelling within her asks us to take Him within ourselves. He invites us, each day, to receive Him into our deepest selves as Mary did, and allow Him to grow there, most especially through His living Body and Blood in the Eucharist, becoming a God-bearer in our own lives.
The Annunciation is not a one-time event. It happens every day we invite Jesus into our very beings and receive Him in the Eucharist. Fiats of surrender and “Amen” echo throughout the ages. Bearers-of-God go forth from our churches, our kitchen tables, our classrooms. Mary, the Theotokos, shows us how to continually respond to God’s invitation into our lives and trust humbly in His plan. She shows us how to live as tabernacles of life.
Theotokos, Mother Mary, show us how to live with Christ within us.