The Annunciation

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is the Patronal Feast of our monastery. 
It is usually celebrated on
25 March, but this year is moved to Monday after the Octave of Easter because it occured during Holy Week. Lunden kloster is dedicated to the Annunciation, which was central in the spiritual life of Marie Knudtzon, the Lay Dominican who was one of the main promotors of the foundation. This monastery was to be a place where the sisters always were to say "yes" to the will of God for the salvation of the world, following Mary's example. It is also a particular joy for us that the feast takes on an ecumenical dimension, as it has been preserved in the Lutheran tradition, which means that our brothers and sisters in the Church of Norway celebrate it too.

The Annunciation has many aspects and can be envisaged from different points of view.
Above all, it is a celebration of the great mystery that God became man to save us, to be God-with-us, and that he so fully shared our human condition that he became the smallest of the small: a foetus in the womb of a woman, weak, defenseless, dependent on her for survival. It is a celebration of the Incarnation - so important in the Dominican tradition - a celebration of the union between God and his creature. It is also a celebration of the wonder that God invites human beings to participate in his saving plan, and thus of the mystery of obedience. Through obedience to the Father's will, salvation is realised in time and space, for each one of us and for the whole human community together.

The readings of the day speak both of the obedience of Christ to the Father and of the obedience of Mary. As Christ enters the world, he says: "Here I am to do your will". And Mary replies to the angel: "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word."

This obedience is what we want to imitate by our profession. The vow of obedience is the only one explicitly expressed in the Dominican profession formula, and it comprises also chaste celibay and evangelical poverty. We are not talking about a blind, military, infantile slave-obedience, but a pascal obedience: the open and listening attitude of a loving heart which trusts itself to be loved to the extent that it is free enough to let go of its own ambitions and be wholly turned towards the other and the good of all. Obedience is also a means to arrive at this freedom of heart. Through true obedience, Christ is formed in us. Through attentive and faithful listening and acting according to what we hear, ever deeper layers of our being are liberated to become His dwelling-place. This is what makes obedience so precious, even if every birth is accompanied by suffering, even if the cross is the only way to the resurrection. 

Fr. Christophe Lebreton OCSO, one of the Cistercian monks in Thibirine, Algeria, abducted and killed twenty years ago, wrote in a homliy for the Annunciation in 1990:

The Angel says: "Rejoice, beloved of God!" And Mary welcomes, consents to this burning joy: "Here I am". Her consciousness has no other content: I am loved... and I am nothing outside this loving gaze. […] Humility alone can know the gift of God and not hold anything back for itself. Before giving His humble servant a mission: you shall concieve and bear a son... God beholds Mary and Mary accepts the total demand of such a loving gaze.
God does not need an instrument, but a helper suitable for Him. God wants a freedom capable of espousing his will. Mary is regarded by God for her own sake, and only because she welcomes with her entire being, her whole existence as a woman and virgin of faith, this Gaze which desires her to be immaculate and holy and perfectly beautiful, can she reply: "Here I am..." and consent to the personal act of God the Father engendering his beloved Son in her... for us.
(Translated from the French, in Adorateurs dans le souffle, Editions de Bellefontaine, 2009)

We find an encho of this in the words of Pope Francis to novices and seminarians in Rome, July 2013:

In calling you God says to you: "You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you". Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from that! The joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy. Feeling loved by God, feeling that for him we are not numbers but people; and we know that it is he who is calling us.

Do we have the courage to meet the loving gaze of God - and return it by repsonding to His call?