By Father Bonaventura M., FI
“Blessed is she who believed,” and blessed are we too if we believe, like Mary, that “nothing is impossible for God.” Faith is the foundation of our salvation. The belief that “in everything God works for good with those who love him” sustains us in our trials on earth, until at last faith gives way to the eternal vision of God.
In the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary displays an attitude of true faith: generous, unshakable, and full of love. The Holy Spirit Himself testifies to Her faith when He inspires St. Elizabeth to praise Her thus: “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The absolute value of this affirmation derives from its inspired origin. It follows that that interpretation is unfounded which—often for ideological reasons—deliberately insinuates that there is a certain lack of faith in Mary’s question to the Archangel Gabriel regarding the modality of Her motherhood. Instead, with the Holy Spirit, it is easy for us to acknowledge the faith of the Virgin and to see in it the source of Her merit and joy. For the text cited says, “blessed is she who believed.” Indeed, Jesus Himself, in an episode that is easily recalled, confirms the sublime degree of this faith in His response to an anonymous admirer. In effect, the Son says of His Mother that She is more united to Him by faith than by the divine maternity (cf. Lk 11:28).
Mary’s faith is not, of course, all expressed in the single moment of the Annunciation, but this constitutes the key moment—or at least an important one—in the Marian mode of the glorification of God and the Redemption of the human race, because in it we have the longed for response of the creature (in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary) to the Creator, of the New Eve for the New Adam. This response marks the beginning of the new history of saved mankind. It restored meaning to the pitiful situation of fallen man. The divine descended into the human. It rekindled the extinct flame of the friendship of God with man. It is therefore true that faith saves.
In the Annunciation, there is not one but many acts of faith: through the Archangel, God first announces Her imminent motherhood, apparently without taking into consideration Her promise of virginity, which stands in opposition to this. He does not, in fact, mention at this time the intervention of the Holy Spirit which will reconcile “the impossible.” This meant putting Mary effectively in the dark and requiring of Her a vigorous assent. The Virgin’s question (Lk 1:34) implies this assent, and not doubt as in Zechariah’s case, because the question is followed by praise. God then announces to Her that He will intervene directly to reconcile motherhood with virginity. It is as if He asks Her for a second assent to His word, a second act of faith, still more extraordinary than the first. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
Mary’s faith is a choice of the love of God, that wondrous lifeblood which vivifies created beings open to supernatural life, a love of God which generously gives and expects to be generously received. Would She have been able to say, “Behold…” if Her heart did not already pulsate with love for the One to Whom She presented Herself in the nakedness of Her faith? Could She have said, “Fiat mihi…” (“Let it be to me…”) if She had not first known human freedom, which is fundamentally self-determination to that good which perfects one’s being? This is why—note carefully—She does not merely express Her willingness,
She defines Herself, She affirms Herself to be “the handmaid of the Lord.” By faith She recognizes Her Highest Good and chooses Him. She therefore presents Herself consciously, with dignity, and to put it radically, She hands Herself over (may Your will alone be done in me). Her gift of self is therefore “hetero- referential,” not self-referential, i.e., She trusts, She has confidence, She makes the will of God “Her food,” the absolute measure of Her self-realization as God’s most beloved Daughter. And in fact, She becomes the Mother of God, the first disciple of Her Son, the Coredemptrix…
The gift of self proper to faith is a human-divine existential event. It is therefore not irrational; it is rather a sacrifice, yet a fully rational one. The Magisterium of Vatican I (cf. DS 3008ff.) reminds us of this. This Ecumenical Council underlines the dependence of man’s created intellect on the uncreated and creating intellect of God, and our consequent duty to submit intellect and will in obedience to God Who reveals Himself. Faith, which marks the beginning of human salvation, therefore constitutes an essentially supernatural virtue, by means of which, aided by God’s grace, we believe the mysteries revealed by God to be true. This belief does not derive from the intrinsic truth of things intelligible to the natural light of reason, but from the authority of God Who reveals and Who cannot deceive or be deceived. We can therefore understand why, in order to render the obedience of our faith reasonable, God willed to add to the interior inspiration of the Holy Spirit convincing arguments contained in Revelation and the persuasive force of divine works, especially miracles and prophecies, which abundantly demonstrate the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, so as to constitute certain signs of divine revelation, suited to the intelligence of every man. We see this also in the revelation of the Archangel to Mary regarding the maternity of Her cousin Elizabeth, i.e. the possibility of the humanly impossible. Our act of faith should be imbued with and animated by the experiential knowledge that was Mary’s: nothing is impossible for God; and not only by this, but also and above all by that fontal act of love that makes faith in God dynamic and fecund, viz. that knowledge of God as God knows Himself, which in short means entering the intimate depths of the divine Mind. God wants us to be blessed with His divine and infinite beatitude, and the first step we make in that direction is precisely faith.