Luke 1 (KJV): 26 And in d the sixth month the angel e Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named fNazareth, 27 To a virgin g espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, h of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
To be free does not mean to be in control.
When we consider Mary at this profound moment in her young life, at the Annunciation, we owe it to her to perceive correctly what actually is happening.
To be free, genuinely free, does not mean to be in control … it means to be in relationship.
Genuine human freedom means being “bound” or “held” or “enfolded” by mutual responsibility within one’s relationships. God and Mary, through the mediation of an Archangel, demonstrate for us what such freedom looks like. Mary “enfolds” God within her womb, and, simultaneously, God “enfolds” her within the Trinity – a “work” of mutual indwelling, a “binding” of freedom, that begins to set the world free.
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.
To be free, in the way that God means it, means to trust Him.
Mary trusts Him … and God trusts her.
38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Yet, Mary did not know what God was up to with her. It was God’s word that she trusted, not her own. And, as Karl Rahner, SJ liked to say, God’s word is always of “the holy Mystery.”
Even though Mary heard, and clearly, what the Archangel Gabriel had just told her, we recognize that her hearing did not include her understanding of what she heard. Her “understanding” demonstrated in this famous scene in the Gospel, was of a different mode completely. It was an “understanding” that did not require knowing.
The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 6 – But no person can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose, for my love [of] the [One] that I cannot think.68 Because God can certainly be loved, but not thought.69 
Mary trusted God and became a breath-taking act of “Yes”. And trust like this is what it means to “know” something in the “world” opened for us within the holy Mystery. Trust is a mode of knowing or seeing the world that is only available to a person who is a relationship constituted by trust. Trust, we could say, lays before our feet a threshold across which we are able to step, carrying us into a world of meaning constituted by the mutual indwelling of free persons, of persons set free by the One Who loved us first.
1 John 3: 1 See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.a 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed* we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.b 3 Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. 
Mary’s trust is not about her choice to surrender control, or about her letting an Other have control over her. What possible sense could it make for Mary to give over her control to God when it is pellucidly obvious that God neither required nor asked this of her?
To be free, then, does not mean to be in control. In fact, it has nothing to do with control … at all.
Let us conclude now by considering three things about our painting of the Annunciation by John Collier.
First, Mary is standing on a threshold (and we recall how trust is a “threshold” too). It is our conviction that the Angel has just knocked on the door, and that she got up to answer it, coming out onto the porch. But we notice that she has closed the door behind her. She is well-trained in the way to handle strangers. And though the Angel could have appeared to Mary inside her house, Gabriel also is well-trained concerning strangers, knowing that courtesy expects that one not burst unasked into another’s private space. Heaven knows to knock. Mary’s first, and hidden, “Yes” was given when she chose to come outside and to welcome a Stranger standing on the porch.
Second, in any painting of the Annunciation, one wonders which “moment” in the whole scene the painter has chosen to reveal. Collier has given us enough clues to conclude that Mary has just stepped out onto the front porch, and that the Archangel has not yet opened his mouth. What are those clues? Mary (clothed in traditional blue) was rousted by the knock at the door, yanked from an absorbing read (a red book) inside the house. As we see Mary there on the porch, we recognize that she has not yet decided whether to put down her good read and to give her full attention to the Angel. Nothing interesting enough has happened. Another clue is that we see the Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove, sitting on the edge of a roof barely jutting into the scene from the right edge of the painting. The Holy Spirit “waits” to overshadow Mary, because Mary has not yet been asked a question, the Question … and had her Answer. Notice the silence that thickly gathers around them both, young girl and Archangel, before ever the Angel looks up and says, “Hail!” I love that silence, because it seems something so much like God to have it there. Mary’s first experience of Heaven coming very near to her is as silence. Silence first. The words will come when silence has created the space into which to send them.
Third, and finally, I am struck by how the girl Mary holds her book. That is a way of holding a book that I have seen many times. But in my experience it is only young girls who hold a book like this, those who have become lovers of books. Mary loves to read, which proves the significance of her parents in her personal development, but also it reveals her grasp of a key weapon of the Light. Reading teaches us how to travel into other worlds, and how to come in close to people (the characters in the story), and into their deepest thoughts and dreams, but doing so without intruding on them, without them knowing that we are there with them, and we able to learn so much from their experiences. A lover of reading has an analogy for grasping how God Himself enters our world. A reader, and God too, is able to enter into the deepest thoughts and feelings of the characters, and they in their particular circumstances and histories, without intruding on them or wanting or demanding that they be different than they are “written”. However, this is not all. When it is the Bible that takes a reader into “other worlds” (we guess, because it is traditional, that this is the book that Mary is holding in her hands there), sometimes that “other world” becomes real! Sometimes what is “in” the Book becomes real in our world. At that point we leave the Book behind … and we open our face and give our welcome and attention to the Real that says, “Hail, full of grace!”
Revelation 3: 20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter [her] house and dine with [her], and [she] with me. 21 I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.k
A TASK FOR WEEK THREE OF ADVENT: We are now so close to Christmas, because this year the fourth week of Advent is just two days long, Sunday and Monday, the 23rd and 24th of December. What this means for all of us is that we will have many “knocks” at the door – at our actual front door, where guests looked for, and not, present themselves; at our email-door or text-door; at our mailbox when Christmas cards appear therein. Practice during this Third Week of Advent a practice that a holy Jesuit – Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ (1532-1617) – taught me. He was for decades the “porter” at the Jesuit Community on the Island of Majorca. He was the person entrusted to answer the door when people knocked there. He cultivated in himself the practice of assuming that each knock was “Christ at the door”. By “pretending” that it was Christ knocking at the door, when he opened the door to whomever was there, their first sight of Brother Alphonsus’ face was that of a man who expected Christ sent him in the person who knocked. It is a profound thing to be looked at in this way by one who greets you. Consider practicing this same habit during this week with those who knock.
 For a biography of contemporary American sculptor and painter, go to: http://www.hillstream.com/artist/john-collier – “Mr. Collier is one of America’s most honored Artists. Each year the magazine Faith & Form, in conjunction with IFRAA, the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, present awards for outstanding contributions in faith-based art. In four of the past seven years John Collier has won awards from this prestigious group, namely for his sculptures of the “Annunciation,” “St. Mary Magdalene,” his “Crucifix” and for his “Mary at the Wedding of Cana.” John has also won numerous awards from Ministry & Liturgy magazine including three in 2008.”
d Comp. ver. 24.
e ver. 19.
f See Matt. 2:23.
g Matt. 1:18. ch. 2:4, 5.
h Matt. 1:16, 20.
 “Enfolded” is a favorite way that Julian of Norwich (14th century) has of speaking about mutual indwelling.
 In the significantly non-reflective culture that we live in, “being free” means “getting free” of the things that bind us, that make burdensome claims on our freedom. When we act to free ourselves from our “disordered attachments” to material things, we act virtuously, for our great good. To “get free” of such attachments is a hard work of spiritual discipline. But when we make the mistake, which we are enormously likely to do in this materialistic culture in which we live, of applying this idea to our personal relationships, we make a particularly harmful mistake. To want to “get free” of our responsibilities that our commitments to others include is to “materialize” our relationships as something that we have, rather than something that we are. As we have things, so we imagine that we have, or no longer have, our relationships.
 Lines from the poem “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov (1923-1997). About her and her work, see at the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/denise-levertov.
 Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984) was a Jesuit and priest and theologian of international renown, a churchman who left a significant mark for the good on the course of Roman Catholic theology in the 20th century. See: http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/bce/rahner.htm. But as was the case with St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, so with Karl Rahner, SJ, it was their profound spirituality – genuine men of God – that “proved” the worth of their vast intellectual accomplishments. To learn about the “mystical” foundation of Karl Rahner’s theology, no better place to look than to Fr. Harvey D. Egan, SJ, who received his Doctorate under the direction of Karl Rahner in Germany. See his essay in the Jesuit journal published by the British Jesuits called The Way, and in particular “The Mystical Theology of Karl Rahner,” The Way 52, 2 (April 2013), 43-62 – https://www.theway.org.uk/back/522egan.pdf.
 Mary’s capacity to listen to but not to hear something that the Archangel said to her is demonstrated when she asks, “But how can this be” (Luke 1:34a). Her focus fixed itself on that startling fact that she was to become pregnant, and her focus remained there. She clearly did not hear when the Archangel went on to tell her about Who was to be her child, and His extraordinary destiny for the salvation of her people!
*68 R. M.: “We read in the Book of Wisdom, ‘To know thee is perfect justice’ (15:3). And what does it mean to know God, except to praise him and thank him in faith mentally, and vocally if it is opportune? What the author says, however, is that one cannot speak in true praise of God because of his surpassing excellence. Whatever you conceive or say of God is always less than true praise. So Ecclesiasticus: ‘Praise him as much as you can, and he will still surpass your praise; for he is beyond all praise’ ” (43:32–33).
*69 R. M.: “Man’s thought or mental skill can never find God. So, according to Denis the Areopagite, it is by an incomprehensible ascent that we find union with him who is above every substance and all knowledge.”
 It is a particularly vicious way of speaking when, say, persons insist that they intend to restore the trust that they shattered with those who trusted them, when it is clear that they have no intention to establish the conditions for mutual indwelling. “Hierarchical” thinking can be toxic to a “mutual indwelling” way of thinking, unless one grasps what Dionysius the Areopagite [late 5th and early 6th centuries CE] meant by “hierarchy” (a word that he invented). One can perceive that what such leaders want restored is control, their control, and soon enough will begin to demand it. But the world that “control” knows is a suffocatingly small world, an “all too human” world where the false-self reigns. In this regard, the famous poem “Ozymándias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley is warning. But the world that “trust” opens is vast and surprising and untamed and free – all within “the holy Mystery.” Note well: “hierarchical thinking” is something quite different than “the hierarchy”. The latter refers to just one of any number of ways a society may choose to organize itself, for the help and good of all. “Hierarchical” structures are not in themselves “bad”, lest we dare call God bad because He “hierarchically” arranged the natural world – “lower” and “higher” orders of being, and elegantly establishing lines of mutual dependence and indwelling through all of the “orders” of being. But “hierarchical thinking” – “I am higher than you and therefore better than you, and you who are lower must serve me who is higher,” etc. – is problematic.
a Jn 1:12; Eph 1:5 / Jn 15:21; 17:25.
* When it is revealed: or “when he is revealed” (the subject of the verb could be Christ).
b Phil 3:21.
 The English adjective pellucid comes from the Latin pellucidus -a -um, adjective, which describes something as “transparent.” It means something, or someone, through which light can pass without obstruction (as light through a window), and by associated meaning, it describes a teaching that is “strikingly clear or understandable”.
 There is a doorbell there on the right door frame, but I just do not think that an Angel would prefer to use one. I am not sure why I am convinced of this.
 Every painting of the Annunciation that I know has the Archangel appearing to Mary inside her private space. This always struck me as surprising. The whole point of Mary’s “Yes” involves a recognition by God that He will ask entrance, not just burst into her private space … and then ask for leave to do so.
 I do not know of a more often painted scene in the Gospels than that of the Annunciation.
 Concerning “blue”, see https://www.finearttips.com/2009/08/use-the-hidden-meaning-of-color-in-your-art/. We read there: “Blue is the color of sea and sky. It has a quality of cool expansiveness and openness. Soft, soothing, compassionate and caring. Blue is an introspective color. Blue is often [in Painting] a formal color which represents wisdom and steady character. Many Superheroes wear blue.”
 The red book has an outsized ability to draw our attention to it in the painting. The color “red” is one of the three Primary Colors that artists identify. See, for example: https://www.finearttips.com/2009/08/use-the-hidden-meaning-of-color-in-your-art/. Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors. This website teaches, and based on different theories of Color and their effects on human beings, that “Red, orange, and yellow colors trigger hunger.” The website then teaches: “Red is the color of assertion, strength, romance, excitement, vitality, physical power, outgoing, ambitious and impulsive.”
 I have experienced being ignored by a niece or nephew who ignore the greeting of their Uncle Rick, when he or she is happily “lost” inside a story he or she is reading. They are voyaging in another world … and I am not there, but here.
 We do not normally expect to a see a person with wings standing in front of us on a porch, or anywhere else for that matter! Wings are most certainly “interesting”. But we are shown the Archangel from the side, and so we can easily see the wings. But Mary is looking at the Archangel head on, and so perhaps the wings are hidden from her gaze. She does notice the Angel’s silence, and that He for some reason is bowing to her.
k Lk 22:28–30; Mt 19:28.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Re 3:20–21. Notice that I, because of the nature of the biblical scene that we are contemplating here, I have exchanged the male pronoun for the female one.