Adrienne von Speyr is a 20th century Swiss pediatrician and a remarkable mystic (she received the stigmata.) She had visions, particularly of the Triduum, and her spiritual writings are dense, complicated, and utterly breath-taking. Today is a celebration of the Annunciation in the Catholic liturgical year. And I return to read again from von Speyr's Handmaid of the Lord -- a powerful explication on the life of Mary. This is from the first chapter, "The Light of Assent" where von Speyr reflects on that first act, the meeting of Mary and the Angel at the Annunciation.
"As a sheaf of grain is tied together in the middle and spreads out at either end, so Mary's life is bound together by her assent. From this assent her life receives its meaning and form and unfolds toward past and future. This single, all-encompassing act accompanies her at every moment of her existence, illuminates every turning point of her life, bestows upon every situation its own particular meaning and in all situations gives Mary herself the grace of renewed understanding. Her assent gives full meaning to every breath, every movement, every prayer of the Mother of God. This is the nature of assent: it binds the one who gives it, yet it allows her complete freedom in shaping that expression. She fills her assent with her personality, giving it its weight and unique coloring. But she herself is also molded, liberated and fulfilled by her assent...."
"...Mary's assent is threefold. She says Yes to the angel, to God, and to herself. She says it to the angel as a simple response to his appearance, like the promise a person can make the moment something is asked of her. The Yes, like every real human promise, goes beyond what the person's vision or knowledge can encompass. The situation of assent is like a bud whose development she cannot foresee. But every serious, binding promise nevertheless allows an insight into a whole spiritual attitude and perhaps actually becomes its living epitome. The attitude of the Mother now becomes evident in her promise through the fact that she stands before the angel and has to give him her answer. The angel and the answer are complementary and together embody a single reality in God. At the moment of their meeting, they form a unity of fulfillment...Their meeting becomes an expression and, as it were, a meeting place for the fullness of grace: the grace of God in Mary and the grace sent to her by God through the angel find themselves in an encounter of perfect correspondence..."
Art: Sandro Botticelli "The Annuciation" and John Collier, "The Annunciation."