The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

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FirstJoyfulStarting this month, I’m continuing my series on Dominican life with some reflections on the Rosary.  The First Pillar of Dominican life is prayer; and the Dominican prayer par excellence is the Rosary.  Legend has it that St. Dominic received the Rosary from the Virgin Mary in a vision; this is much disputed, but the mere fact of the legend shows that the Rosary has been associated with the followers of St. Dominic for a very long time.

I do not plan to write about the Rosary as such: the beads, the specific prayers, and like that—there are lots of books and web pages that explain how to pray the Rosary.  Instead, I want to write about the Mysteries of the Rosary: the events in the lives of Jesus and his mother Mary that we meditate on when we pray the Rosary.  And most particularly, following the Dominican motto of “Contemplate and share the fruits of your contemplation,” I plan to share some of my own reflections on each mystery.  I’ll begin with the Joyful Mysteries, and consequently with the Annunciation.

In the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will bear a son, the Son of God.  Mary asks for clarification; and once she understands as best she can, she says “Fiat voluntas tua.”  Let it me be done to me according to thy will.

I think of the Annunciation as the Mystery of Vocation, the Mystery of Calling.  The Lord called Mary to be the theotokos, the God-Bearer.  Jesus calls each of us to follow him, each in our own way.  Jesus called me to be a husband and father, and much later to be a lay member of the Order of Preachers.  It is our part to answer that call as Mary did, with “Fiat voluntas tua.

That can be a scary prayer to pray.  When you say “Fiat voluntas tua” you are leaving yourself open to God, to whatever He asks, to wherever form His call will take.  This takes real trust.  But ultimately it’s necessary, because the nature of God’s call is frequently obscure until you live it out.  Mary knew only that she would have a child, though she had not known man, and that the child would be called the Son of God.  What that meant and how it would affect her life is something she only discovered through the course of years.  She knew she would be pierced as with a sword, but I’m sure the Cross came as a shock.

On a more mundane level, I didn’t know what marriage really involved when I said “I do” to my wife Jane (though I thought I did).  I didn’t know what fatherhood really entailed when my eldest was born; and every so often I apologize to him for the mistakes Jane and I made as we were learning.  I’m sure that over the coming years I’ll be surprised over and over again by where my Dominican vocation leads me.

But the game is worth the candle, as they say.  Jesus said that he came so that we would have life and have it abundantly, and it is precisely in following him that this happens; and it is precisely in accepting our vocations, our callings, that we best follow Jesus.  My vocation isn’t simply some job I need to do for God; it’s an expression of who I am, and it is by giving myself to it fully, by giving myself to God fully, that I become most fully myself.  It is the instrument that Christ has given me to bring me to my God-given shape. You might say that a mighty oak fulfills its calling to be a mighty oak by growing into a might oak.  The same applies to us.

But for that calling to take me where God wants me to be, for me to do what God wants of me, I need to allow myself to be guided by Him.  And that means I need to be open to Him, and to the movements of the Holy Spirit.  And that means I desperately need to pray “Lord, let it be done to me according to thy will,” because without His help it isn’t going to happen.  The stone doesn’t know what kind of sculpture the sculptor intends to carve.

And so when I pray the first Joyful Mystery, I usually pray it for my vocations as husband and father and as Dominican, and I pray with Mary, “Fiat voluntas tua.”

One might ask, what if I don’t really want to pray that prayer?  What if I wish I wanted to, I know I should want to, but I don’t, and I so I can’t pray it sincerely? Easily done.  You want to want to; so tell God that, and ask Him to help you to want to.  And go on praying that, each time you pray the first Joyful Mystery, until at last it’s true.  Trust in Christ and he will bring you home.

What are your reflections on the First Joyful Mystery?

Copyright 2014 Will Duquette

 

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