The Radiance of Her Face
By Dom Xavier Perrin
Upon a backdrop of hope appears Mary. She is a young girl, and nothing seems to distinguish her from other young girls. Nevertheless, it is to her that the angel is sent. And he greets her with the almost unheard of title: ‘full of grace’.
The angel contemplates Mary, full of grace. She represents fullness itself. This fullness is not simply a covering that one might place upon a very modest stand. It is what she is in her deepest self. Her very being exists caught up by grace in a way innate to her, sanctified, divinized.
She is infinitely magnified in the original nuptials of a created participation in the divine nature. This ennobles her to the highest degree and lifts her to an outstanding level of purity, goodness, and beauty.
Never has a creature corresponded so perfectly to the Creator’s vision of beauty. Never has a woman been so thoroughly a woman according to the heart of God. Never has grace been so fully poured forth into a creature.
The angel, who habitually contemplates the face of God, immediately recognized in Mary an outstanding resemblance to the One who created them both. Is he, perhaps, taken aback, astonished to encounter among men a person so divine?
The most astonished is Mary herself. “She considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” She senses that God is about to make known to her his astonishing will.
Unaware of herself – she is hidden from her own eyes. Fully human and royally divine she is a vessel full of tender mercy, and it is with tender mercy that she looks upon those who surround her. She is entirely at the service of her neighbor, incapable of comparing herself with others for she is totally incapable of turning in upon herself. She is so humble that people do not notice her, do not offer her any compliments, do not think anything of her, or look at her. She possesses something of God’s own invisibility. Perhaps it is the first time that anyone greets her, calls her by her name, that she is noticed, looked at or pointed out.
Then it is that Mary is deeply troubled. She does not stop for a moment to look at herself. She only understands that the fullness of grace which she has enjoyed until now without knowing the reason for it, is about to be given all its meaning. She knows that she has been consecrated by God, and she herself has responded to his divine attention by consecrating herself entirely to the One from Whom she has received everything. The time has come for her to learn the mission for which God has destined her.
The angel is going to tell her in a few words, heavy with all the resonances of the biblical Word, the role that is now entrusted to her:
To be the mother of a son, who will be called Jesus – who is to inherit a kingdom that will have no end;
All that she sensed, all that she foresaw in the angels greeting now becomes clear and precise in her heart. She will be the mother of the Messiah.
Mary, then, by her question – “How shall this be, for I know not man?” – appeals for the sending of the Spirit ‘from on high’, and for the overshadowing of the power of the Most High, which will make possible the coming of the “Son of God.”
She is the lowest one who is to birth to the Most High. She is the ‘servant of the Lord,” totally at the service of His Word.
She is aware that God is about to pronounce, in his incarnate Son, His ultimate creative word, concerning man, the world, and the Father.
With an unerring instinct that comes from the Spirit she senses, foresees even, that this Word will be the great, astounding, disconcerting and wonderful Word of the Cross and Resurrection with its flowing tide of blood, and flooding streams of love. To this love, to this burning AGAPE of the HOLY TRINITY, she utters the total “YES” for which she has been prepared.
She inaugurates her maternal reign and takes the path that leads toward her Son’s divine sovereignty. She assumes all her noble dignity and begins to appear in the history of men, as it is guided by God’s plan. She is revealed in this plan both in her secret, intimate consecration as the Immaculate One, and in her unique mission as the Mother of God.