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March 25 is the great celebration of the incarnation, the Annunciation, when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” — nine months before Christmas.
But God arranged it so that his incarnation was dependent on Mary giving her “fiat”: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”
She thus left us a great model for fulfilling God’s will in our lives. Think of it as the F.I.A.T. of accepting God’s will.
F is for fortitude — not just courage, but the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When Gabriel first visits Mary, “Do not be afraid,” says the angel, “for you have found favor with God.”
When Gabriel asks her to be the mother of the “son of the Most High,” the angel tells her that it is the Holy Spirit who will make it possible.
This is exactly what happens in our lives, whenever we have to do God’s will. We may be asked to change our daily habits, or have an uncomfortable conversation, or expose ourselves to ridicule or dismissiveness for our faith. It scares us. It needn’t.
“It is the Holy Spirit who, by the gift of fortitude, sustains us in moments that are particularly difficult,” says the great spiritual writer, Blessed Columba Marmion. “It is this strength that makes martyrs, sustains virgins. The world is astonished to see them so courageous because it imagines they find their strength in themselves, whereas they draw it from God alone.”
Fortitude is the voice of the Holy Spirit within us saying, “Do not be afraid, I will be with you.”
I is for initiative — like the fiat of God the Father.
Catholics focus on the Blessed Mother’s fiat, but there is an earlier, related “fiat” that is even more well known: God’s original command “Let there be light!” — Fiat, lux!
This is “the power of the Most High,” which Gabriel tells Mary will “overshadow you.”
God the Father’s fiat is a fiat of initiative — and so is Mary’s. She doesn’t just wait for God to act, she actively does his will.
You see it when she rushes to Elizabeth’s side to help her pregnant cousin, you see it when she notices that the wedding feast at Cana is running out of wine, and you see it when she gathers the apostles at Pentecost.
The great prayer for initiative is Psalm 40, the Psalm used at Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation — especially its refrain, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”
A is for acceptance — deciding ahead of time to be okay with the consequences of God’s will.
St. John Paul II pointed out that Mary didn’t know exactly what she was getting into when she said “fiat.”
“At the moment of the Annunciation, Mary does not yet know of the sacrifice which will mark Christ’s mission,” he said. Nonetheless, when Simeon later tells her just how bad it would be, “Mary is ready to live all that divine love may plan for her life, even to the ‘sword’ that will pierce her soul.”
Saying Yes to God doesn’t just mean doing God’s will today — it means stepping down a road that will take you to places you never expected, or wanted, to go. And stepping out anyway.
T is for thanksgiving — the central attitude in Mary’s own commentary on her “fiat.”
If all of this makes a “fiat” sound like drudgery, Mary’s “Magnificat” prayer can correct that mistaken impression. By looking at each step of her fiat with gratitude, she fills the whole process with positive energy.
Fortitude doesn’t mean bracing oneself for unpleasantness; it means embracing God’s goodness. Mary, using words from her encounter with the angel, describes it this way: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Initiative isn’t a high hurdle you have to clear to get started, it’s the natural consequence of working with God. “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name,” says Mary. “He has shown strength with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”
Acceptance doesn’t mean white-knuckling through suffering. Mary sees it as freeing ourselves from shackles: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent empty away.”
Thanksgiving, in other words, changes the whole exercise for Mary.
Her fiat is ours. Let it be done according to her way.
This appeared at Aleteia.
Pictured: The academic quad at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.