Monday, August 20, 2012

THE ANNUNCIATION, MARY'S GARDENS & RATATOUILLE


The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary (of the Lord) is the announcement by St. Gabriel the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. The Feast of the Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25 in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Whenever March 25 falls during Holy Week, the Feast Day of the Annunciation is moved in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches.

 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.
............................................................................................................

Galilee was a small town in an unremarkable region. Although Joseph was a descendant of King David, the connection had little or no meaning to Joseph’s community. He was a humble working man who became engaged to Mary. According to the custom of their day, a betrothal ceremony was performed and Mary would live with her parents for a year before marrying and joining her husband in his house. As was customary, Mary was about 12 years old at the betrothal and would marry at age 13.

One can imagine why Mary was so confused at the arrival of an angel, whom not only talked to her, but said that God favored and was with her.

Like Joseph, Mary was humble. So it was hard for her to understand how she came to be favored by God. Also knowing the history of Moses and the other prophets, she probably knew that God was about to ask her to do something so challenging that she couldn’t do it without Him.

She was right. The angel told her that she will give birth to the Son of God who shall indeed be God on Earth, or God incarnate.

Before she even tried to ponder the idea of her being the mother of the Son of God, she asked how she can have a baby since she is a virgin and not yet with Joseph.

Gabriel explains that it will occur through the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps also his news of her formally barren and elderly cousin, Elizabeth, being in her sixth month of pregnancy helped Mary to understand that she too would be playing a part in a miracle of God.

Indeed her role may have been secured from the moment of her own conception, but it’s significant that Mary said that she is a servant of the Lord and agreed to serve as Gabriel described.

Mary was clearly called by God, and she wholeheartedly agreed to His will. She knew that she’d be able to handle whatever challenges came her way because God said he’d be with her throughout. Not only was God the Father and Holy Spirit with her, but her beloved son was God the Son and that relationship strengthened Mary all the days of her life on Earth and continues in Heaven.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is recognized as a Saint. But she is so much more than that, she truly is in a category all by herself.

Yet she was once a human being who said yes to God.

And therein lies our inspiration. Most likely our mission from God won’t be delivered via an archangel, but if we look around, pray, and listen carefully, we’ll find it. We’ll know that God will be with us when we climb all the obstacles and face every challenge. If an obstacle delays or misdirects us, we’ll take a step back, learn from our experience, pray, listen once more to the God of our heart and start again.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most blessed of all mothers and she is the best. We can never be as perfect as Mary. But you don’t even have to be a mother to be inspired by Mary the nurturer. She nurtured the most beloved and precious of all, and she continues to nurture us with prayers from Heaven. 

A nurturer is anyone who takes care of anyone or anything, even oneself. I nurture myself when I garden. I love every part of gardening, even the annoying parts. Like St. Francis of Assisi, I believe that God is everywhere, from the warmest sunbeam to the boldest mosquito.

Gardening can be as addictive as running, or golfing or watching football for hours on end, and it’s good to have something to occupy yourself when you have a husband who runs, plays golf and watches football for hours on end.

The best part of gardening is sharing the harvest when you nurture other's with God's bounty.

Gardening doesn’t have to be BIG to be enjoyed. It can be small and it can be special. It can be a Mary's Garden.



Ingredients:

One statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Any of 200 plants that, according to legend, are connected to the Blessed Virgin Mary (see sources for complete list).

Place any size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside anywhere you’d like to group a bunch of flowering plants around and in honor of her. So this can be a whole backyard garden, or a smaller section as shown above. Alternatively, it can be on a porch, or in a pot or inside on a shelf.

Before doing my research for this post, I anticipated taking a photo of my Mary's Garden loaded with lots of Mary’s flowering plants. Alas, most of them are only available for purchase in the spring. But, I did have lavender planted and the photo shows the crop I harvested earlier this year. I dried the buds and filled sachets to give away.

I took this one in the autumn of 2012:




I snapped this one on Easter Eve 2013:




I learned that Mary's Gardens became quite popular during medieval times. The custom remains strong for many peoples and is a lovely way to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here are some of the most popular modern day Mary's Flowers and their connection to Mary:

Rose (Our Lady’s Rose) is connected to Mary in many ways. Red roses in particular symbolize her sorrows. It’s said that roses filled the air during her Assumption into Heaven. A “rosary” was originally a rose garden dedicated to Mary. Then in the 12th century the Rosary became devotion, a garland of prayers.

Madonna or Easter Lily (Annunciation Lily) symbolizes Mary’s purity. Legend says that Gabriel held a lily in his hand during the Annunciation.
    
Violet (Our Lady’s Modesty) is a modest simple flower that legend says was growing outside Mary’s window when she told Gabriel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” - a humble girl courageously accepting God’s role for her. It is said that as Gabriel departed, he blessed the flowers with their delicate fragrance.

Columbine (Our Lady’s Shoes) is believed to have grown in the garden of her cousin, Elizabeth, whom Mary visited soon after the Annunciation. Mary touched the flowers and gave them their fragrance. The purple blooms represent the sorrow of Mary at the Cross and the flower is shaped like a dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Daisy (Mary’s Star) represents the star that leads the Magi to Bethlehem and to the Holy Family on the twelfth day after Jesus’ birth.

Clematis (Virgin’s Bower) is believed to have sheltered and hid the Holy Family one day and night as they fled into Egypt and away from King Herod’s soldiers who were searching for the Baby in order to kill him due to a prophesy.

Lavender (Mary’s Drying Plant) is where according to legend, Mary hung Jesus’ freshly washed clothes to dry. Their sweet fragrance comes from His clothes.

Rosemary (St. Mary’s Tree) shares a part in both legends. Rosemary sheltered the Holy Family along with Clematis and held Jesus’ freshly washed clothes to dry in the sun along with Lavender.

Marigold (Mary’s Gold) blossoms are believed to have been used by Mary as coins, especially during the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and their encounter with robbers.

Lily of the Valley (Mary’s Tears) are said to have appeared as Mary’s tears hit the ground when she wept at the Cross.

And there’s more, a lot more - many with just a name connection and not necessarily a legend. (See sources.)

So you can see that if you chose to create your own Mary's Garden, the recipe contains variables galore. Have fun!

...................................................................................................................

And for all you mamas out there and those who really want a food recipe; I do have nurturer’s secret to share. It’s called Ratatouille. It’s a delicious combination of sautéed fresh vegetables that magically appeals to children, even those who claim not to like vegetables. For added magic, include garden-fresh veggies (your own or farmer’s market) and a viewing of the Pixar movie of the same name.

Ratatouille by Emeril Lagasse

Food Network


Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 ½ cups small-diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium-diced eggplant
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (don’t used canned)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste

 1. Set a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan.

 2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.

 3. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook. Stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.

 4. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.

 5. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for a final 5 minutes.

 6. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

I made this dish for my children last week and they loved it! Disclaimer, they’re 16 and almost 13 years old. To me, they’re children, but in reality perhaps their taste buds are growing up and that’s why they found this dish delicious. However, I’m sticking to my story, especially the part that included the viewing of the movie Ratatouille.    

.................................................................................................................... 
Sources:

HOLY BIBLE, NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
MARY'S FLOWERS: GARDENS, LEGENDS & MEDITATIONS by Vincenzina Krymow