Isaiah’s sign – The Annunciation of the Lord

The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign.  What is this sign?  Traditionally we have interpreted the sign as the miracle of the virgin birth.  But that may not be the sign.  And today’s text underlines this because today’s text doesn’t say anything about a virgin giving birth to a child.  Isaiah simply says the maiden is with child.  This may not sound so surprising, and in fact much of a sign.  But it does underline two things.

One is the very concrete reminder that any pregnancy is always a gift.  Each child, be they wanted or not, handicapped or not, conceived in love or not, making it to birth and childhood or not, is always a unique, irreplaceable and priceless person who, living on earth or in heaven, will be just as beautiful and noble and important in God’s plan as each one of us – for the rest of eternity.  Those who died young are in reality very powerful intercessors for us, more powerful even than the greats like St Therese of the Child Jesus and St Padre Pio, because while sharing with them the stain of original sin, unlike them they lived an otherwise immaculate life.  So let us turn often to the Holy Innocents, especially those close to us, because they are close, already now contemplating our every move, and interceding for our every trouble.

The other thing that it underlines is that maybe it is not the fact that the maiden, and so also Mary, is pregnant, even if it be miraculously so, which is the sign.  The true sign is the person himself – the baby Jesus.  That Isaiah’s maiden has a child whose identity is God with us is truly a living, walking and talking sign of the intervention of God in human affairs, of his interest in us, and in his preoccupation with our good.  This is obviously only amplified in the case of the Blessed Virgin and her son, also called Emmanuel, as well as Jesus, which means much the same thing: God saves.  Jesus is this sign of God’s closeness: he is so close to humanity that he is human, fully human, while remaining fully God: God is so close to us in Jesus that in him humanity and God are united in the same person.  This is why Jesus brings us close to God: not because he was a wise philosopher, or spiritual master.  But because he is God, and is humanity, and in him God and man is in peaceful and total communion.

It is also why the Virgin Mary is the most powerful saintly intercessor for us: for she too was in perfect communion with God, a Trinity-like communion with the Holy Spirit that bore fruit in the incarnation of her Saviour, and ours, and that of the whole cosmos.

So, brothers and sisters, let us turn afresh to Jesus in our lives.  Let us turn to him first in the morning, and last at night.  Let us make our time of communion with him, our time of daily prayer, the non-negotiable axle around which every single other event in our day turns.  And let us re-choose to do so with Immaculate Mary, Regina Coeli, who loves us, who is perfectly gentle with us, and is better equipped than any other spiritual guide or guidebook to lead us deeper into the Divine, because the Divine is her son.  It was her kind of flesh that was nailed to the cross, and her blood type that will fill our chalice tonight.  Sweet and perfect queen, pray for us.  Regina coeli…Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia.