Mary wondered what the greeting of the Angel could mean. In fact, she was deeply disturbed by it. It’s only some days later when she visits Elizabeth that we gather that Mary has understood the Angel’s greeting. The words of her Magnificat show that the penny had dropped. “My soul glorifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour … henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty has worked marvels for me.”
What did the Angel actually say to her? “Rejoice, so highly favoured”? That’s a poor translation of the greeting. It is actually much stronger and more beautiful than that. The Angel said, “Hail! You who were filled with grace at a point in time and have always remained filled with it.” All of that rich meaning is said in only two Greek words. One word is for “Hail”, a word used in the Gospel to acclaim someone royal. The other word says the rest, and it’s a unique word, used only once in the whole of the Bible: it’s a unique word for a unique person in a unique situation. Notice, too, that the Angel does not say, “Hail, Mary!” Mary is the Virgin’s human name. But her name as given by God is more exalted. It is this which the Angel uses. It expresses God’s dealings with her from the moment she came into existence. At that moment, he filled her with grace and has been with her since. She, too, has remained in that grace by her own will and by living in obedience to God.
So, the greeting of the Angel or, you could say, the word God spoke to Mary through the Angel, revealed to Mary who she was in God’s sight. It opened up her self-awareness to share in God’s awareness of her. It turned on a light which gave her the ability to see herself through God’s eyes. No wonder she was disturbed and no wonder she wondered what the greeting meant! No wonder either that, once the penny dropped, she burst forth in her Magnificat! No wonder, finally, that we along with all generations have, in fact, come to call her blessed.
God also seeks to greet each of us, not through Angels, but through the Word of His Son. Somewhere in the Word of God, there is a unique greeting of God for each of us. Our task is to find it or, perhaps someday at Mass or when I might be thumbing through the Gospel, to let it hit me, stop me in my tracks, disturb me just as with Mary. God wants to reveal to each of us his name for us. And it, too, will be a beautiful and strong name. He wants to turn on that light which raises our self-awareness to God’s awareness of us. He wants us to see the grace which He has planted in us but that we might not yet be aware is there, or are aware of it only vaguely.
The day we were baptised, we, too, were filled with grace. We were filled with divine potential. In each of us there lies the grace that will lead us to our truest fulfilment far beyond anything our own minds can imagine. Another name for that is sanctity. In each of us it will show itself in a unique manner. Its effects will not just be for us or in us as individuals. No, it will ripple outwards to bring warmth and healing and, yes, grace to others.
Look on the unique greeting of God to you in the Word of his Son as his Christmas present to you. Ask Him in these days to speak to the depths of your heart the name He has for you. Ask Him to disturb you as He disturbed Mary. Ask Him to teach you what His name for you means for your life, for your future, for your loves, for your relationship with Him. Asking Him sincerely in faith means that He will answer you. Ask Him to help you hear His answer, to be docile to it, to welcome it. Ask Him to give you the courage to leave behind the limited understanding you have of yourself so as to receive and live from His own profound, expansive and eternally loving understanding of you.
And at some point, once the penny has dropped for you, too, go and visit someone, as did Mary to Elizabeth, and let rip your Magnificat.