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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Mary's Annunciation

Since the month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, I thought I would say a few words about from the story of the Annunication: Luke 1:26-38. I will focus on three aspects of this story that have implications for our own lives.

First, the story take places in a real time and in a real place. It takes place during the reign of Caesar Augustus in a town in Galilee called Nazareth. Our own story today takes place in a real time and a real place. Mary’s world, though far back in time and far away in place, was not altogether different from our own. It was a world of uncertainty, hard times, divisions, political corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, militarism, violence, and gross injustices of all kinds. It was also a world of joy, supportive families, good friendships, charity, and strong faith. Mary, like us, was limited by time and space. She could do only so much with her one precious gift of life. She didn’t know the future either, but she trusted “the unknown future to a known God.”

Secondly, the Annunication tells us that, when the angel appeared to Mary, Mary was much perplexed by the angel’s words. Other translations say she was puzzled or even greatly disturbed. Why? Mary didn’t know what was happening. She wasn’t given a script for her life. There was no heavenly director tell her: “Now, Mary, you kneel over there, and when Gabe comes in, look surprised.” No, Mary had to “ad lib” the role she was playing in God’s plan—just as we “ad lib” our role in God’s plan too! Furthermore, like Mary, we have times in our lives when we’re greatly disturbed, when life doesn’t make sense. Can we, like Mary, trust that even the apparent absurdities in life are somehow being held in the hands of a loving God?

And thirdly, the story of the Annunciation tells us: Mary pondered. She reflected on the words the angel spoke to her. The etymology of the word “ponder” is interesting. It is related to the word “pendulum.” A pendulum is something that swings back and forth. The word ponder means, then, to go back and forth and back and forth before choosing or deciding. The word implies that Mary carefully weighed things. She didn’t jump to conclusions. She thought about things and could patiently live with a certain amount of uncertainty in her life. What about us? Do we take time to reflect on the choices life sets before us?

Over 60 years ago, the British writer Caryll Houselander, said this of Mary: “We shall not be asked to do more than the Mother of God… What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life… To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world.”

Let us pray to Mary:

Mary, keep me rooted in the real world,

for it is in the real world that God is bringing about the work of Salvation.

When I am experiencing disturbances and perplexity,

give me patience and strength.

Help me, like you, to ponder the choices life sets before me…

Help me, like you, to entrust the unknown future to a known God…

And may I surrender all that I am to the Spirit of Love

that my life may bear Christ into my time, my place, and our world. Amen.


Are there any words or phrases that stand out for you in today’s reflection? 

Today’s video is “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” sung by the Daughters of St. Paul.

Do you have any thoughts on Mary or today’s reflection? If so, please share some of your ideas below.

19 Responses

  1. Thanks Sr. Melannie for reminding me that May is the month of Mary.

    I like the idea of Mary pondering. I too am pondering about what to do next in my life so the idea of a pendulum is useful. It is heartwarming to think that Mary pondered too. There is no script in life just gracious uncertainty.

    God bless!


  2. Sister Melannie,
    Thank you for the reflection on Mary. I recommend to all Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1898 painting “The Annunciation.” It is a beautiful expression of Mary’s response to this moment in her life. We keep a print of this painting in our home as a constant reminder of the simple, gentle, and yet profound nature of this woman. There is much for us to pray about and ponder from Mary’s example.
    Ed J.

    1. Ed, Tanner’s Annunciation is one of my favorite paintings too! Mary looks so young, so fragile, so fearful… It’s beautiful! Thank you for directing us to check it out. Melannie

  3. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on Mary, Sr. Melannie. And thank you for quoting Caryll Houselander, in my mind one of the most underrated Catholic writers of the 20th century. May she one day be called Saint Caryll!

    PS: Love Kathleen’s line, “There is no script in life just gracious uncertainty.”

  4. Sr Melannie and everyone, hello!

    I’ll add my voice to John’s in praising Caryll Houselander, a writer of rare and unacknowledged genius, indeed, a poet of high calibre!

    Yes, God does have a way of gloriously derailing our plans, sometimes! (As I found out this week. I was taken to the emergency room Tuesday morning after having been violently ill Monday night. I was told late Tuesday evening that I’d be needing surgery the next day, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In layman’s terms, they had to pop out the ol’ gall bladder; it was inflamed and full of stones.)

    God does speak to us, in our time, with our limitations, in every unpredicted and unpredictable circumstances. My clinicians, from PCAs to nurses to doctors, were all top-notch. I’m so grateful for those who learn medical science, especially anesthesiologists!

    And I’m grateful to for the pause in my routine, for the necessary shifting of gears from bustle and hubbub to slower and steadier. There’s a wee bit of pain, of course. I’m hoping it makes me more understanding and compassionate toward those in worse pain.

    I’ve gone far afield from the annunciation, perhaps! But all prayers and good thoughts, aves and paternosters, mi shebeirachs and anything else that will fortify a convalescent fifty-year-old in the aftermath of his first major internal surgery, would be sincerely welcomed and deeply appreciated.

    Thanks for listening, all. Peace and light.

    1. Tom, my prayers for your quick recovery. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God loves us enough to slow us down? Sometimes our pain is a good reminder of our blessings. The Lord bless and keep you. M.

  5. Thanks again, Sr. Melannie, for the reflection, and the song today.

    I’ve been caring for my parents, both in their upper 80’s, and not in the best of health. Hospice nurses are coming in every few days to help with Dad’s comfort, but it is an uncertain time for all of us. Very overwhelming for Mom, my sisters and I do the best we can to stay hopeful through all.

    While I’m preparing for Dad’s passing, I also think back to my Father-in-law, who has been gone for over 25 years now. Hail Mary, Gentle Woman, was one of his favorite songs, I think of him whenever I hear it. My in-laws and my own parents have strong faith, and I’m relying on that to help us all in the coming months as we go where we are led, and like Mary, ponder all, but say YES to God.

    1. Kathy,
      I think caring for our elderly parents is one of the hardest things we do in life. As you said, there is so much uncertainty associated with it. But they cared for you as you took your first steps on your earthly journey. Now it’s your turn to watch over them as they take their final steps on their journey toward eternity… I will pray for you. Melannie

  6. Thank you, Sister, for reminding me to be patient with uncertainty, and trust God. I recall Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice to “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart… Love [live] the questions…”

  7. Thank you for the song “Gentle Woman”. It is one of my favorites that never fails to give me goosebumps.

  8. “Mary, you kneel over there, and when Gabe comes in, look surprised.”!
    Haha! Love that line!

  9. I have been having a difficult time dealing with all the violent teen deaths in our state this past month and found comfort in your words “can we trust that even the apparent absurdities in life are being held in the hands of a loving God? Thank you and I will continue to pray and trust in the hope of a devine plan.

  10. Loved the blog and the music. I “ponder” most of my decisions but often my pendulum doesn’t know when to stop swinging and I second guess myself. However, I can’t help but reflect on the times that I have acted without making a conscious decision and then had to live with the consequences. Lord, help me to be more like Mary.

  11. Thank you so much dear Sister Melanie for this beautiful reflection, especially I liked the pendulum comparison as I feel often the need is to ponder in my own life about what is being asked of us. I enjoyed the Love music too. God bless.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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