And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
This is the verse before the Gospel we hear at Mass today. It is also one we hear during Christmastide – both at the Christmas Mass during the day and the Second Sunday after Christmas (when the Epiphany isn’t celebrated that day). This year, however, we are already in the middle of Passiontide – the two weeks prior to the Triduum. Why, therefore, are we hearing a Christmas reading today? Well, today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation and without it, we wouldn’t even have Christmas!
Though it may seem odd to be celebrating part of Christmas during Lent, there is a very logical reason. Since Jesus was human in every aspect other than sin, it can be assumed he spent nine months in Mary’s womb prior to His birth – the typical gestational period for all babies. Counting backwards from His birth on Christmas – December 25 – we arrive at March 25. Hence, today we celebrate the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced she was to become the Mother of God, and Jesus, as the Word, took on human flesh and made His dwelling among us.
It is also fitting to reflect on the indwelling of our Lord during the Lenten season as we prepare to commemorate His death and resurrection during the Easter Triduum. For it was only after His dying, rising, and ascending to Heaven, that He could send down the Holy Spirit to dwell within each of us upon our baptism. The Baptismal Rite is one of the most joyous parts of the Easter Vigil, where many of our brothers and sisters will receive this Sacrament as the first part of their journey into full communion with the Church. And each of us present at any of the Easter Masses are invited to renew our baptismal promises as well, to remember that “we were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life,” as St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans (6:4).
While we will never carry the second person of the Most Holy Trinity within our very selves, in the same way Mary did, we can still say “yes” to the invitation of our Lord to open the door of our hearts to Him. We can say “yes” to His spirit we received at our baptisms, and say “yes” to receiving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He longs to dwell within each of us, both now and forevermore. As we near the end of our Lenten journeys, hopefully we can pause a moment today and remember the very beginning of Jesus’ life in this world – and His life within us – in order to declare with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)