Beautiful meditation on Mary’s Fiat by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Each year during the Advent season, those who pray the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours are afforded the opportunity to reflect on a wonderful meditation from St. Bernard on the Annunciation. Here is the text:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

What a beautiful mediation Bernard offers us. In the Annunciation we see the patience with which all of Israel waited for the Messiah. Mary too waited. And then she learns she is to become the mother of the Messiah. Bernard places us right in the moment of the Annunciation, as if we are there, waiting for her to give her response. Just as Mary and Israel were patient, we wait, patiently within Bernard’s meditation, for her fiat, in which after Mary utters the words, the whole world breathes a sigh of relief. Salvation has come! Also, notice the last paragraph, the descriptive words Bernard uses — prudent, modest, faith — this is how he sees Mary — one who embodies virtues. This is how we should see her too!

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