Today, March 25, we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, the first Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. The Annunciation, the message of the Lord delivered by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, is the first step that Jesus takes towards earth. It is the first step in the reclaiming of sin, sin which began with Eve, the first mother of the nations. It is the miraculous precursor to the Incarnation, the life and death of Christ, and our eternal salvation.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of Our Blessed Mother as the only woman who was able to serve as the vessel of the Incarnation-- as she was so filled with the grace of the Lord from before the moment of her conception.
Mary, a Virgin Full of Grace
There was only one mode of birth that was worthy of God, and that was to be born of a Virgin. Equally, who could come from a Virgin birth except God himself? The maker of mankind, if he was to be made man and destined to be born of man, would have to choose, to create a mother whom he knew to be worthy of him, who he knew would be pleasing to him.
It was his will that she should be a virgin, so that he could proceed from an unstained body, stainless, to purify mankind of its stains.
It was his will that she should be meek and humble of heart, since he was to become the outstanding example of these virtues, so necessary for the health of humanity. He granted childbirth to her, having first inspired her vow of virginity and filled her with the virtue of humility.
To put it another way, how could the Angel have addressed her as full of grace if any, even a little, of these virtues had been present in her already and not given to her by grace? It was given to her to be made holy. She, who was to conceive and give birth to the Holy of holies, was made holy in body by the gift of virginity and holy in mind by the gift of humility.
Adorned with the jewels of such virtues and radiant in both mind and body, the royal Virgin’s beauty draws the attention of the citizens of heaven itself, and its King is filled with desire for her and sends his messenger to her from on high.
The Angel was sent to the Virgin, it says. A virgin in body and a virgin in mind, a virgin by her own choice, a virgin, as the Apostle describes her, holy in mind and body. Not someone just now found by chance, but chosen from the beginning of time, foreseen and prepared by the Most High, waited upon by the angels, prefigured by the patriarchs, preached by the prophets.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."