|The Angelus (1857-1859) by Jean-Francois Millet|
There are approximately forty thousand graduate and undergraduate students on the move here. They are moving from lecture halls to labs, from freshmen year to senior year, from the present to the future, and from academia to careers. They are also moving from belief to unbelief, from one political ideology to another ideology, from confusion to clarity, from clarity to confusion, from all kinds of (healthy and unhealthy) relationships, and from one emotional state to another.
Every day at 12:29 (a minute before our Mass) our students come to a profound pause and live together the memory of the Incarnation. "The Word became Flesh and dwelled among us." Friends of mine from the ecclesial movement, Communion and Liberation, always say "And dwells among us," and I prefer this. It makes clear that what happened in that moment of Mary's "Yes," is not imprisoned in the past. Instead, her "Yes" still echoes in the lived experience of the Church. He dwells among us. Through Mary's obedience, something new has entered into the experience of time. In our life together as the Church, we encounter the presence of the eternal. Were it not for her "Yes," we would be the prisoners of the ephemeral and the slaves of existential loneliness.
Our memory of this moment two thousand years ago is not something that simply acknowledges a fact that happened. It indeed does that. But, it acknowledges with profound gratitude and humility that this fact in history is lived now in the experience of our friendship together. Her "Yes," to Christ gives us the freedom also to say, "Yes." In a sense, we are living together the memory of that "Yes." We are caught up in that moment when time and eternity meet. We pause before the great Mystery of our salvation and this lived memory allows us to see that every minute of the day is now a moment with Christ. All time belongs to Him and all time is now saved by His Presence.
This brief moment together of awe before the Mystery fills me with gratitude. Gratitude, of course, for the "Yes" of Our Lady, but also for how that "Yes" continues to live in the experience of the friendship of the Church. Without this pause each day, the Church risks becoming a business, a corporation, an ideology, or a club that has no real purpose or impact on the lives of its members. It is this pause that awakens in us a certainty that something new has happened and is still happening. It is this pause that causes me to see that Christ is present here in this place.
The memory of the Annunciation daily renews in me an affection for the people with whom I live this memory. These young men and women who stand with me in awe before the "Yes" of the Blessed Virgin are an assurance of something truly beautiful and something that daily saves me: "The Word became Flesh and Dwells Among Us."