At the moment our first parents, Adam and Eve, lost Paradise for us, we began waiting. 2,000 years ago, a young girl named Mary waited with the rest of the world for her savior, not knowing that she would be the vessel that would pour out salvation to humanity. With just a few words, the world’s wait was over…
The Latin for “let it be done” is “fiat.” Mary’s response to the angel, in Latin is, “Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.” Mary’s “fiat” is her “yes” to God. So “fiat”, in addition to being the name of a cute, little Italian car, is what we use to refer to Mary’s response to the angel.
Mary’s fiat is special because it is through this act of humble submission to the will of God that the Son of God makes His entrance into human history, taking on a human nature and becoming one like us in all things but sin. It is an example to us of obedience and faith in the Lord. Imagine if each of us responded to the will of the Lord by saying, “Let it be done!”
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection concerning the role of Mary as a model of prayer and the prototype of the Christian life and vocation. In this instruction he said, “The Christian life involves a continuing, ongoing walk with the Lord. He invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love, a life of communion. This kind of intimacy with a living, loving God is the interior meaning of Mary’s Fiat, her Magnificat, and the example of her life.”
Mary’s life, if we look at it without her role in salvation, is unremarkable. She was, except in sin, like any other young woman 2,000 years ago. She cooked, she cleaned, she visited with neighbors and family. She existed.
Where Mary’s story becomes remarkable is the point at which God initiates a relationship with her. We often hear people say they are “seeking God” or “finding God.” To say we’re “seeking God” implies that He is hidden from us. He is not hidden, He is with us, always and everywhere–always has been, always will be. It is really more accurate to say that we are simply trying to figure out what it is that God wants of us. What we don’t often have is the luxury of one of the archangels coming to us to tell us what, exactly, it is that God is asking of us, but, we’re not Mary and I suppose as the mother of the savior of the world, there’s bound to be some favoritism…
Our own relationship with God really has more to do with opening ourselves to recognizing that God is already there, always has been, and is seeking us out. Our relationship with God is not one of discovering a God who is hidden from us, but rather, one of opening ourselves to let God enter in. In Matthew (7:7) we are told, “Seek and you shall find.” God is already there, and has been there from time eternal, waiting for each one of us. That surrender to God is not always easy; however. A relationship with God, like all relationships, takes work to keep the relationship strong, healthy, and productive.
It’s important to remember, too, that even for Mary, whom God held in such special favor, there was fear, and we know this because the angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” (1:30).
Fear is not an uncommon response when we first start thinking about coming into a relationship with God. We might ask ourselves, who is this all-powerful Creator of the universe? What is God like? What does He want of me? Will I be worthy? Am I going to be asked to do something “holy” (like, become a nun or missionary or something?) Am I going to have to change the way I live my life? Am I going to become some sort of weird “religious fanatic?”
Mary is, indeed, asked to do something great for God, something strange and wonderful. But first she is assured that she is perfectly acceptable to God just as she is. The angel tells her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (1:30). The most important thing about God is that we do not have to be afraid. One of the things I love about our faith is that we are continually being told, “Do not be afraid!” In fact, that phrase appears 365 times in the Bible. Interestingly enough, over the last 2,000 years, we seem to not heed that admonition as much as we should, but nevertheless, when we do reflect on it, it’s comforting.
“Do not be afraid.” It is that assurance from Gabriel that gives Mary the courage to accept what God is asking of her.
God is asking her to do a great thing. He is asking the same thing of each one of us–literally, to bear God’s Son into the world. But we will not have to do it alone. We do not have to be afraid. God will be with us along the way, and God will give us the strength to bear what we have to bear, and to do what we have to do. Have the courage to repeat Mary’s fiat and say: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”