St Paul is very conscious that his vocation is "to preach of the obedience of faith" [ROMANS 1:5]. Our own experience witnesses to the inter-relation of faith and obedience. For Mary of Nazareth, the visit of the Archangel Gabriel brought both into play.
Gabriel brought his incredible message to Mary. Once she heard the message, and understood God's request, the ensuing "time" was probably the most important interval in world history! A woman's assent was sought to allow the Incarnation of the Word of God. Certainly a momentous decision, and one to affect the fate of humanity - forever! St Bernard, sensitive to what was at stake, describes the reality of that moment when so much hung in the balance : The Eternal Word waiting upon the word of Mary of Nazareth, to begin the work of our redemption and restoration! Bernard addresses the Virgin Mary:
- You have heard and believe in the message, namely that by the Holy Spirit you will conceive and bear a son; so do not delay the return of Gabriel to heaven. He is waiting to depart - and we are waiting to hear your reply.
-Your reply will be a word of mercy for all of us weighed down by the sentence of condemnation following original sin.
-God is offering you the price of our salvation. If you assent we will be free!
-Doleful Adam exiled from Paradise implores you.
-David, Abraham and all the Patriarchs implore you.
-The whole world is waiting, bowed down at your feet, and rightly so because on your answer depends the comfort of the afflicted, the redemption of captives, deliverance of the damned, the salvation of the sons of Adam, your whole race.
-If you will let him hear your voice you will see His salvation. He says: "O fair among women let me hear your voice".
Only say the word and receive the Word; give yours and receive God's Word…Blessed Virgin, open your heart to faith, your lips to consent and your womb to your Creator.
"Behold," she says, "I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word."
And the WORD was made Flesh and dwelt among us.
The above is a brief excerpt from the Fourth Homily of St Bernard on the Blessed Virgin Mary.