Today is March 25th. It is nine months from Christmas: the Feast of the Annunciation. The day that celebrates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will bear the Son of God.
Today is also Good Friday. It is the day that remembers Jesus’ suffering and death.
This year they fall on the same day. This year I cannot help but see the searing truth in their overlap.
When Mary heard the startling news from the angel, when her heart grew troubled, when she said yes to God, it was for this. For Good Friday and Easter and everything that comes after.
And when Jesus suffered and died, it was for this. For good news and Incarnation and everything that came before.
Is one a feast of death and the other a feast of life? No. They are both.
You cannot get the hope without the heartbreak. The Christian story holds both. And through this twisting tension – creation and resurrection – everything we know about life and death is changed.
All week the hard and the holy have circled round my heart. I want sacred to mean soft, comforting, beautiful, and light. Yet suffering seems to be wrapped up and woven into sacred. I continue to find the holy concealed within the hard, despite my deepest desire to the contrary.
Today holds both. The same girl who gave her fiat is standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at the child she bore and birthed. The same woman who weeps at the cruelty of this world is saying yes to God’s plan to redeem it.
Sometimes we want to keep our theological truths separate and siloed, lest they bleed into each other. But today reminds us that it is all the same story. It is love that says yes and brings both birth and death.
I write here in this space about motherhood. Every mother I have met knows something about this life-and-death story: the suffering brought by pregnancy or miscarriage, the agony of childbirth or infertility, the grief of loss. Every parent knows the thousand small deaths that come with raising children: the heartache of watching our dreams in flesh and bone make their way into a world that will hurt them.
We have all said yes to life. Along the way we know it will break our hearts.
But we know there is deeper joy and surprising change and resilient hope, too. Even on our hardest days as parents – even if we have to stare death straight in the face – we may still see a shimmer of light and a promise of good.
So many people have written to tell me this same story. That when their child died, from miscarriage or stillbirth or after birth or years later, they felt this strange and abiding joy, too. An Annunciation in the midst of Good Friday.
My husband and I have read every one of these stories, and we have looked up at each other again, and we have seen reflected in each other’s eyes that all of this is True. That our story is only part of one mysterious way that God is at work in the world.
A power that we never knew existed until we were in the heart of love.
I am far from Mary. (Believe me, when we saw two heartbeats flickering on that ultrasound screen last October, I flipped out in an extremely unpeaceful manner. For months.) But Mary helps me understand my story.
And today’s twin feasts? They help me love my daughters.
Because I cannot escape this simple truth. We would not be suffering right now if Maggie and Abby had never existed. If we had never been open to their lives. If we had not said yes to this calling.
But I cannot escape the bigger truth that we would know less of God and love and life if they were not. If their lives had not changed everything. If they had not stretched our hearts so that thousands of strangers could know their story.
And I would say yes all over again today. Even knowing where the road ends. Even knowing the depths of pain that wait ahead.
There will never be another coincidence like today in our lifetimes. Never another Annunciation that lands within Good Friday.
So today is a time to pause and pray into what this might mean. That an angel’s announcement could lead to the cross. That a day of pain could be a day of joy. That what looks like death is deeper life.
And that all who say yes to walk this way of faith together are bound up in the same story. The story that leads Beyond.