J.M.J. The life-changing encounter between the angel Gabriel and Our Lady, which is recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Luke (1:26-38) and is especially remembered on March 25—the Solemnity of the Annunciation, was the shortest job interview in history. When Mary was informed that her unexpected maternity would not alter what many scholars have understood to be her previous pledge to God that she would remain a virgin, she quickly consented to the divine proposition that she would become the Mother of the “Son of the Most High” (verse 32). Our Lady’s singular mission as the Mother of God had begun!
No matter how often this Lucan passage is read, one verse that troubles numerous readers is that which says that the Virgin, yes, was “troubled” (verse 29).
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
The Douay-Rhiems (1899) American Edition declares: “Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.”
It seems shocking that the Maiden of Nazareth, who only twelve or fourteen years before was conceived without Original Sin, would now fall prey to this inner lack of tranquility. After all, her Immaculate Conception and corresponding fullness of grace meant that she never was at enmity with the Creator. Not for a moment did she choose against Him. Her charity was perfect, her confidence in the Almighty unshakeable.
Regarding “troubled,” Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., in his classic Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1996), provides us with some appreciated assistance: “we must not, however, take this phrase to mean real disturbance, which destroys the peace of the spirit; it means rather a profound astonishment at this unusual greeting, an astonishment so great as to cause a kind of fear. This is Mary’s first reaction to the angelical message, a reaction arising from her deep humility, which makes her think this extraordinary eulogy very strange” (page 1133).
Humilitas, sì; perturbatio, no.
Our Lady’s interior peace was not shattered when she heard Gabriel call her “full of grace” (verse 28).
Noting Mary’s unbreakable peace reminds us of the four “rules” for peace of soul advocated by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751), a Franciscan friar known for his preaching in defense of the Immaculate Conception.
1. To be attached only to God.
2. To surrender to Divine Providence.
3. To welcome suffering and hardship.
4. To undertake only that which our situation in life demands.
Mary’s soul was remarkable for its peace. She trusted that God would protect her and help her to do what was necessary.
Our Lady was “troubled,” given her incredible humility, but was not “troubled” due to sin and a lack of peace.
In this period of turmoil all over the globe, what a good example Mary is for us who flirt with sin and often give in, which always leads to inner unrest. Her fidelity to her Divine Son is the balm that every soul would well imitate.