Are there special graces given for praying the first Joyful Mystery on the feast of the Annunciation? Probably only if I'm also visiting a parish of that name, but even so I have faithfully added this decade to my daily prayer routine for the past year or so.
It started with friends who were in the midst of some serious discernment about their relationship, and I just wanted to pray for them in a more focused way. For some reason I decided the first Joyful Mystery is this perfect framework. Every day it plays out a little differently, depending on the current needs and issues, but essentially it goes like this:
An Angel came to Mary to deliver a message
- In art, Mary is almost always portrayed as being in prayer or studying God's Word at the time of the Annunciation. I pray that my friends focus on their faith lives first, and that they are using their time well, in complete trust that God will answer in His time. (Until then, they are still individuals with obligations and blessings to be found in their current vocational state.)
- I ask that they be open to all the messengers God is sending to them. Surely God is always speaking to us all! In their case I imagine God is sending messages through parents, siblings, friends, circumstances, the words and signals each gives to the other, and so on.
- I pray that these messengers (me included) take this responsibility seriously and am also praying for guidance that our advice would be sound and based on God's will (and hopefully free from personal bias).
- I pray my friends have ears to hear all these messages, to sort through them with wisdom, and to discern their meaning correctly.
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
- Mary had a sure sense of who she was. She had no idea of the details, and at that point the plan didn't even make sense, but she knew above all that she was a Church Lady (I had to add that ;-) and she trusted her Beloved unconditionally. I pray that my friends also know themselves well enough to maintain that kind of focus.
May it be done to me according to your word."
- "Thy will be done" can be the hardest four words in a prayer, especially when the outcome you want is so clear. I pray that they are both able to set aside personal hopes and dreams and be completely docile to God's will, sure that the greatest joy will be found there. (This is the part of the prayer that's evolved the most as the path has become more and more clear over the past year.)
Mary obeyed faithfully and went on with her life
- I ask that once they have clear direction, they can move forward confidently. Mary's life teaches the important fact that knowing your direction does not mean the obstacles are eliminated (or even lessened in some cases), but that sense of knowing makes action so much easier!
If you're interested in seeing more Annunciation images, be sure to look at Gianna's posts under our Advent label.
On a only slightly related note, the fresco is from the convent at San Marco in Florence, Italy, where each monastic cell features a different Fra Angelico scene from the life of Christ. It's now a museum, but if ever I were in Florence, I'd gladly spend time on retreat in one of the cells. This Last Supper by Ghirlandaio adorns what is currently the bookstore. You can read more about it here, and here.
Image credit: Web Gallery of Art