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“Fiat mihi”

Mary receives the message of the Archangel Gabriel. Mary is passive before she becomes active.

Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” —Luke 1:38

Today, especially in those communities within the Church in which the new evangelization is (rightly!) emphasized, a strong jargon has developed about what it means to be Catholic. We hear the call for “intentional disciples,” “dynamic Catholics,” “rebuilt parishes,” and so on. And these concepts contain much that is good. We do need to be, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “new in ardor” as we live and share our faith today.

But sometimes we can get ardor mixed-up with aggressiveness or self-assertion, and so we should never forget that the first Christian act, the definitive act we see Our Lady perform in the Gospel appointed for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, is what we might call a passive-act. Mary is available. Mary receives the message of the Archangel Gabriel. Mary is passive before she becomes active. Mary is reactive when she expresses her great faith by speaking those words which made the whole Christian life possible, because they welcome Christ into the world: “May it be done unto me according to your word.”

Saint John Paul II called this receptivity a hallmark element of the “feminine genius.” It is the very opposite of aggression or even self-assertion. It is the very opposite of a sinful act. It is the way you act when you are “full of grace.” It is a model for every one of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord tells us in Luke’s Gospel that “out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks” (6:45). Only a heart as full of grace as Mary’s could say what she said. She was holy in an utterly unprecedented way, and so she could say “yes” to an utterly unprecedented proposal from God.

Yet each member of the Church has his own “yes” to say to God. And it would be natural to worry that since the hearts of sinners are not full of grace, saying “yes” is impossible. Or perhaps saying “yes” is manageable but living it out with persevering fidelity is not. Sometimes, after a few years of marriage, religious consecration, or priestly life, Christians can be tempted to doubt their “yes”—whether they really meant it, whether they were even capable of meaning it, whether they are capable of staying faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI has some words of consolation for those who are tempted to doubt or discouragement. In his book Dogma and Preaching (Ignatius, 2011), he writes:

The mystery of the grace that takes place in Mary does not create a distance between us and her and make her unapproachable, turning her into an object of mere (and therefore empty, meaningless) wonder. On the contrary, she becomes a consoling sign of grace, for she proclaims the God whose light shone on the ignorant shepherds and whose mercy raised up the lowly in Israel and the world. She proclaims the God who is “greater than our hearts” (I Jn 3:20) and whose grace is stronger than all our weakness. If John the Baptist represents the unsettling seriousness of the divine summons, Mary represents the hidden but profound joy that this summons brings.

Much could be written about what it means to offer one’s own “yes,” or “fiat,” to God. For today’s Solemnity of the Annunciation, perhaps it suffices to affirm that each Christian is capable of saying this “yes” and living it faithfully, looking to Mary’s example and trusting in her help.

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About Fr. Charles Fox 81 Articles
Rev. Charles Fox is an assistant professor of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. He holds an S.T.D. in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome. He is also chaplain and a board member of Saint Paul Street Evangelization, headquartered in Warren, MI.


  1. We will be yoked to God Most High, which means The Way, or we will be yoked to someone else, which means idolatry.

    It’s completely God…or utterly not-God.

    Mary spoke the greatest words ever spoken by a mere mortal: “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” Because of those words, we can be made free in Her Son.

    Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!

  2. In contemporary dechristianized world it is really hard to comprehend real settings of God Mother’s “Fiat”. Not only for confused crowds but even for many, many Catholic. And yet, there is nothing more important than to realize that world really exists, it was created as good (and still is) and that salvation is not achieved through some “spiritualization” (from eastern ascetism to western gender theories) but through redemption of body – as we see today: the Word was made flash, after Virgin Mary’s “Fiat”, and remains available in the Eucharist.

    This reality was powerfully captured by Michalangelo in his Last Judgement: there is nothing “spiritual” in the center of created Universe, instead we can see body of our Lord together with His (and ours) beloved Mother…

  3. How I miss the brilliance and holiness of Pope Benedict.

    I can only console myself with the knowledge that there is is still a large pile of his work that I have yet to read and those that I have read are worth re-reading a hundred times.

    • This would seem to imply that you trust yourself to be more “brilliant and holy” than our Father His Holiness Pope Francis?

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