Listen! In the Annunciation, this is the word given by the angel to Our Lady in actually telling her of God's plan. The Word becomes flesh within her when she hears and responds to, the Word. St. Francis, perhaps again reflecting his equating the Poor Clare vocation with the Annunciation, starts his canticle of exhortation to us with the same word - "Listen, little poor ones". So listening is very important. But this listening attitude is part of something much bigger - that of a receptive heart. Receptivity is very important. "Be it done to me according to your word" captures this attitude. And in the Visitation, when Elizabeth proclaims, "Blessed is she who believed that the promises made her by the Lord would be fulfilled", we are again given a hint at her receptivity.
Our Lady was told to 'listen', and her response was, 'let it be done to me' - so she was conscious that it was not an action of her own, but a putting of herself at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Having done that, she conceived, which was not something that she could have caused to happen. She could only dispose herself. This attitude is confirmed by the fact that she proclaims in joy "The Almighty has done great things for me".
Why is listening so important? Because, we are trying to live out a spousal life, in which we incarnate Jesus. He is the Word Incarnate, the Word of God, and He said His words are spirit and they are life. All words are made to be listened to, and His even more so. And so, to incarnate the Word, we need to listen to the Lord, in the Spirit. As at The Creation, this word of the Spirit achieves what it utters.
This receptivity is not a perusal of Scriptures for mere knowledge nor a casual hearing of them. It is a loving openness and a listening with the heart. And it is a listening and not forgetting, which St. James talks about when he warns us about looking in a mirror and then forgetting what we look like! It is a listening that challenges us.
Jesus and Our Lady lived a hidden life in Nazareth. The great signs and miracles of Jesus were for His public ministry. But something powerful and more imperceptible was happening during the time of Our Lady's pregnancy and in the hidden years of His life. Perhaps that is why the following quote about the Annunciation, which captures the essence of this receptive attitude, illuminates the core of our vocation, seen in the light of this mystery, as being a hidden life:
"The mystery of the annunciation is not one of radiance. It is a mystery of twilight, of the half-light which marks the beginning of the dawn, of the presence of one who comes to make himself known. Mary does not yet see clearly. Then the Word, the True Light, is hidden in a woman's womb. Mary is wrapped in shadow because the Light is within her. The woman who expects a child is not radiant: she absorbs the light rather than reflects it. Her body is enlarged but she is, as it were, more concentrated on what is within her. This is the mystery of new life: self-expression is nothing, receptivity is all.
Twilight, shadow, secret! We tend to distrust secrecy and the twilight of evening, whether romantic or sinister, is more familiar to us that the twilight of the dawn… Perhaps the Annunciation is an invitation to remain in the twilight, to keep the secret of love which God imparts to each of us, to embrace it in our hearts with lowliness and trust. Then we shall be able to imitate Mary's visitation, to hasten towards those who need us, to proclaim to them the joy which comes from God alone; and we shall make known his marvels in the great assembly."
(Glenstal Bible Missal, for the Feast of the Annunciation, P. 1384)
As the Holy Father has commended us to the Virgin of Listening, we will finish with his prayer at the end of his letter for the 750th Centenary:
"My most heartfelt wish, strengthened by prayer, is that your monasteries may continue to offer to today's world, with its widespread need for spirituality and prayer, the demanding proposal of a complete and authentic experience of God, One and Triune, by radiating his loving and saving presence. May Mary, the Virgin of Listening, assist you. May St. Clare and all the Saints and Blesseds of your Order intercede for you."