The opening prayer for today's mass is the concluding prayer for the Angelus.
The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her "Do not be afraid." How can she not be afraid? First there is the angel. Secondly, what is being asked of her will ruin her in the eyes of the community.
He then describes for her the two step process of the conception of Jesus:
1 The Holy Spirit will come upon you.
2 The power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Why both? In the creed we say "conceived by the Holy Spirit." Why then does Luke need to add "The power of the Most High will overshadow you"?
We tend to think of shadows as bad things we associate them with darkness, and we fear the dark. And which of us thinks that it is a good thing to be overshadowed? But we must remember God is turning the world as we know it upside down.
The name Gabriel can be translated "God's strength" or "My strength is God." Or if you wish you can translate strength as power. Gabriel, the power of the Most High, is the angel sent not only to deliver the news but to spread his wings and wrap her in God's power. She is now in the shadow of the wings of the power of the Most High.
Now a shadow is not a bad place to be. The shadow become the place of safety, the place of security in the storm that is to come, the storms that are to come.
Even at the moment of the crucifixion of her son, she will remain overshadowed by Gabriel, the strength of God. Today's gospel tells us that the angel departs from her in the sense that he is no longer visible to her. But the angel does not pass out of existence.
Today is the darkest day of the year. Here in Richmond we will have only 9 hours and 33 minutes of daylight. But we do not fear the darkness. We do not fear the storms of life. We know that in those moments we can always take refuge under the shadow of the wings of Gabriel, we can allow the power of the most high to overshadow us, not so we can run away, but so that his strength becomes our strength. Through him, with him and in him we can be victorious.