When I observe St. Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, I notice, first of all, that she is alone. She is a young woman, poor and powerless by the standards of her society. She is seen as the property of her father and on her way to becoming the property of her husband. Her life is not her own to live; her value is calculated by what she is able to give to a man.
The Angel Gabriel, by speaking on God's behalf to Mary directly, is subverting the patriarchal social order. Neither Joachim nor Joseph are consulted about the message. Gabriel's announcement is for St. Mary's ears alone. And Mary's response is hers alone to give. She does not second guess St. Gabriel's breach of protocol and run to her father for guidance; she opens her hands toward the angel and receives God's announcement with her own clear, singular, courageous will. I celebrate St. Mary as Ever Virgin not as a function of her gynecological status, but because no man ever brokered her relationship to God. God has torn the "mighty" from their thrones and lifted up the "lowly," indeed.
But her lowliness isn't all that it seems. I further observe in St. Mary of the Annunciation a being of profound power. Mary, humanly poor and vulnerable, freely chooses in a bold instant to empty herself of every last drop of socio-cultural capital at her disposal, that of being a "good daughter" or a "good wife," in order to become the channel of God's greatest creative work in human history. St. Mary's kenosis is as profound as that of Christ and as generative as the self-giving love through which the Divine voice manifested the Cosmos. I see in Mary a master of the transformative Way, and I ask for her prayers that I may follow in her steps and respond to God's scandalous voice with my own bold "Here am I," without fear or hesitation, in order that I too may bear the fruit of God's planting in me. Hail, Mary! indeed.