The Feast of the Annunciation celebrated on 25th March in Nazareth was an unusual one. In front of the Grotto of the Annunciation, there were ten priests and, at a distance, the cantors and few other people. Due to the measures taken by the authorities to fight the spread of Covid-19, the faithful took part only from a distance, from their own homes, watching the live streaming of the Christian Media Center. Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, addressed all the faithful at the start of the Mass, sending his greetings and asking the Virgin Mary to intercede for the Father.
“We have to go back a few centuries to find a solemnity of the Annunciation like today’s, which is almost clandestine,” said Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa in his homily. Beyond all the questions and concerns, the bishop asked the faithful to be questioned by the Virgin Mary, on her very feast-day, there in her house. Mons. Pizzaballa invited worshippers, as the first thing, to believe that nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1,37). At a time when scientific progress, our advanced world and our feeling “almost invincible” have collapsed or been strongly challenged by the arrival of this virus, the passage of the Gospel invites us to look up and trust in God.
“In today’s Gospel, Mary teaches us to have faith,” said Mons. Pizzaballa. “Believing is recognizing that this invisible hand of God works and arrives exactly where man cannot. Believing also means being in this difficult and dramatic situation today with Christian hope, which is the attitude of those who decide to live in love: they do not close themselves up but offer their lives, saying their “yes” even at the most difficult of times. Believing is therefore listening, welcoming, trusting and offering oneself.”
The bishop’s second indication was that of accepting entering the time of gestation, a time of patience, of silence and waiting, exactly as Mary did. Even though our story is at times incomprehensible, we have to ask the Virgin Mary for “the gift of trust in the work of God, in ourselves and in the world,” to find a new life in God this way.
During the Mass, a prayer written by the seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate of Beit Jala was read out. “O Mother, you who gave your life for the advent of Salvation in the world, teach us to be open to the will of love of God and to follow him. O Virgin, we put ourselves under the mantle of your maternal protection, so that you may protect us from every illness that spreads over the face of this earth,” wrote the seminarians.
At midday, it was then time for the Angelus, again from the Grotto of the Annunciation, after which Mons. Pizzaballa invited everyone to join in prayer with the Our Father, as also requested by Pope Francis for the whole world. The Father Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, together with all the other friars scattered in the eight countries where the Custody of the Holy Land operates, also joined in the Pope’s prayer.