we near the birth of Christ, it’s worth turning to the beautiful and
familiar story of the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin
named Mary to announce she will give birth to a son. Although
undoubtedly shocked, Mary responds, “I am the maidservant of the Lord.
Let it be done to me according to your word.” Mary abandoned her own
plans and acquiesced to what God wanted her to do.
Church Fathers were fond of describing Mary as the new Eve, the new
mother of all the living. In fact, some say the angel’s “ave” ("hail")
was Eve’s problem? Eve grasped at the fruit of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, claiming along with Adam that she would be
the criterion of right and wrong, that her will would determine the
nature of the good. Every one of our spiritual and moral problems flows
from this primordial sin. But when Mary says, “Let it be done to me
according to your word,” this spiritual momentum is stopped and then
reversed. It is this reversal that allows Christ to be born into the
Eckhart noted that every Christian has the vocation of Mary, to bring
Christ to birth. We each do this in our own ways and styles, according
to the exigencies of our unique vocations. But we do this, Eckhart saw,
the same way Mary did: by abandoning our projects and plans, our sense
of the good life, and acquiescing to God’s purpose working through us.