March 25, 2010

The Angelus - An Exegesis

I love that word. Exegesis. Makes me think of a superhero with a beard and a big "J" on his muscley chest. "ExeJESUS! AWAY!"


I figured today would be a good day to post this, considering it is the feast of the Anunciation.

The Angelus is a traditional prayer which focuses on a set of three responses, each followed by a Hail Mary. It reenacts the Annunciation, in which the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, revealing to her God's plan (or economy) of salvation for the whole world - that she, Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne, a virgin, would conceive in her womb, and give birth to, the divine Son of God. The responses are as follows: Latin (English Translation commonly recited at six, noon, and six)

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ. (The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary)
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. (And she conceived by the Holy Spirit)

V. Ecce Ancilla Domini. (Behold the handmaid of the Lord)
R. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum. (Let it be done to me according to thy word)

V. Et Verbum caro factum est. (And the Word was made flesh)
R. Et habitavit in nobis (And dwelt among us)

Now. To exegete.

This prayer is a Scripture passage, and all of Scripture can be understood four ways: literally(what is actually written), analogically (how it relates to the rest of Scripture), morally (how it relates to our lives), and anagogically (how it relates to the end times). Now, I like to focus on the moral, because it is most pertinent to my existence. So what can I, a male college student, who was never immaculately conceived, have not received any glorious messages from archangels, will never conceive a child within me, and will never be related by blood to the Son of God, learn from this?

Another translation of the first line is "The angel spoke God's message to Mary." All of us, through catechesis, through reading on our own, through prayer, and even through contact with nature around us, receive God's revelation. All of revelation is one Word - Christ, the divine Word (CCC p. 65). Therefore, all of us have received Christ. Furthermore, as baptized Christians, we "have put on Christ." In our relationship with God, we are receptive (or, in a sense, female). We have two options: we can receive this Word willingly and "bear fruit" (Jn 15:4), or we can reject this Word, rejecting also the divine life that Christ gives to all.

We then, with Mary, say "Behold the handmaid (= servant) of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy Word." To live in Christ is to serve Him - having created us, he knows what is good for us, and to follow his laws is our delight (Psalm 118:35). In serving God, Mary conceives. This is important - in the act of service God is made manifest in her. "The Word became flesh" in Mary's act of service. Similarly, "the Word becomes flesh" in us as He is manifested to others through our service. "They will know we are Christians by our love," right? To show Christianity to others (to catechize) is to reveal the person of Jesus Christ to others. We are His body - because He lives in us, and we make Him manifest to others through our service, can we say that we are the Word made flesh in our present day? It sounds almost heretical to equate ourselves with the Son of God, but let us not forget his mission - to make us partakers in His divine nature (CCC p. 460). When Christ came down from heaven to take on our humanity, He raised humanity up into His divinity. This is not something that happens only in heaven after we die - Christ redeems us now. We are Christ's body now, on earth, with the divine mission to bring Him to all people. The Word is made flesh, every day, in our efforts to bring the world to Him.

So, on the solemnity of the Annunciation, let us pray that the Word of God may be spoken to all by our actions and tongues, that we may truly be the body of Christ.


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