It is the Archangel Gabriel who, bowing with reverence before her, says: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Many holy persons had, ere this, been saluted with the words contained in the latter half of this sentence: but no one before had heard himself styled “full of grace.” Wherefore, the Holy Virgin, in her humility, queries within herself what so extraordinary a salutation may mean. The Angel, in answer to her half-expressed thought, goes on to disclose to her the divine mystery: “Thou hast found grace with God.” And because Mary is full of grace, therefore is she destined to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word.
The prophets had foretold the coming of the Messias, as of Him who would refresh the earth, parched by sin, with the dew of divine grace. The patriarchs had desired Him, as the dispenser of life-giving grace. Mary herself, in her ecstasies, had foreseen Him, as crowning His elect with grace. It was fitting then, that the King of divine grace, should have for His Mother a Virgin in whom grace should reside in its plenitude.
But the Incarnation of the Word was a mystic alliance between God and the human nature. It was not sufficient, in order to bring it about, that the Creator should will to unite Himself to His creature: this work could not be perfect, unless man himself freely consented to this union. For this end the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Mary: his mission being to disclose to the Holy Virgin, the heavenly mystery, and to receive from her, in the name of the human race, her acquiescence in the designs of the Most High.
But Mary’s will was in entire conformity with the will of God: how then, could she refuse the demand of the Angel? The humble Virgin has not a moment of doubt or hesitation as to her choice. She only inquires, with holy prudence, as to the manner of the mystery’s accomplishment. And hardly has she understood the divine will, than she pronounces, with ineffable love and full-submission, those sublime words, which will excite the admiration of the whole world to the end of time: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.”
In the beginning, the fiat of the Almighty had called into existence from nothingness this vast universe. Now, unutterable prodigy! Mary’s acquiescence to the divine will is the starting point of a marvel without precedent: God, without ceasing to be what He is, will take our nature and become true man, as He is eternally true God.
Christian soul, cultivate, after the example of the Mother of God, the fair flower of humility. It is only by this means that thou canst call down upon thyself the divine blessings.
Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).