It all starts with a visit. A seprent, Satan, the head of the fallen angels, winds his way into the Garden of Eden. He spies a lovely young woman alone in the garden and engages her in dialogue. He tempts her, urging her to taste the forbidden fruit that God had prohibited them from eating. She willingly agrees and, later on, she shares some of the contraband with her husband. With that one visit, man falls.
But, with the Fall comes hope. Although God punishes Adam, Eve and the serpent, He promises that Someone, born of the seed of a woman, will crush the head of the serpent.
Generations passed. God made several covenants with Ancient Israel, all leading up to another visit. An archangel, Gabriel, appears to another young woman, a virgin, who is by herself. He engages her in conversation. He addresses her with her full name, "Mary, full of grace." Gabriel brings her a proposal from God. He tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus. He explains that He will save His people. Mary asks how this can be and Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and thus, the holy offspring will be called the Son of God. Mary then gives the answer that heaven awaited. She gives the answer that Eve should have given ages ago. Mary gives God her unconditional and unreserved "Fiat". With that "Yes", Mary not only sets the wheels in motion for our salv, ation, but, she begins to undo the damage that the first woman had caused with her disobedience. With that, Gabriel leaves her.
Today, the Church marks the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is interesting that most of the time, this Solemnity falls during the course of the Lent, the Church's penitential season. While this may seem an odd juxtaposition, it really isn't. Lent leads us to Eater. The whole reason why the Incarnation happened, why God became Man and deigned himself to be born of the sinless Virgin is to suffer, die and to rise again, to open the gates of heaven for us. Jesus' Passion, Death and Ressurection form the Paschal Mystery.
Mary's "Yes" also serves as the embodiment of the words that her Son used to teach us how to pray, the "Our Father." With her "Yes", Mary conforms her will to the Father's (on earth as it is in heaven). She takes a leap of faith (give us this day, our daily bread), not knowing where this road will take her, but, trusting completely in God. Some 33 years later, when her Son endures the suffering of the Passion and Crucifixion, she forgives those who have hurt her Son (as we forgive those who trespass against us).
A priest friend of mine tells us that salvation history begins with a man, a woman and a tree Adam, Eve and the Tree of Life,. It culminates with a man, a woman and a tree, Jesus, Mary and the Cross. However, I also believe that since it all began with a visit between an angelic creature (albeit, fallen) and a woman, it was fitting that it should culminate with a visit between an angelic creature and a woman.