St. Bernard contemplated deeply on the accounto the Annunciation and how Mary submitted to God's will with what is called her "fiat". The word “fiat” translates to “let it be done” in Latin. While in the English language, it refers to a formal authorization or a decree. According to the Lay Cistercians, Mary’s fiat, therefore, means more than just utter and complete surrender. When she said, “let it be done to me according to your word,” she also allowed God to use her for His purpose. It is an expression of her desire to help God carry out His plan even if she does not understand it or what it will entail for her.
The Cistercians argue that this single and unequivocal “yes” changed the course of human history. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, people have been waiting for the Messiah. If not for Mary’s fiat, the hoped-for salvation would not have come to fruition. Had she not submitted herself to God’s will, Catholicism – as we know it today – would probably not exist.
But Mary’s decision during the Annunciation did not just transform history forever. It also transformed her. As Pope Benedict the VXI pointed out in his book, because of Mary’s complete faith and unequivocal surrender to God, the Word became flesh within her.
Precisely for this reason Bernard contemplates Mary to learn how to let himself be restored and recreated by God. Through contemplating what God did in her with the “re-creation” of the Incarnation he is able to say: “Every soul, even though weighed down with sins, ensnared in vice, caught in the allurements of the passions, held captive in exile, and imprisoned in the body ... even, I say, though it be thus damned and in despair, can ?nd within itself not only reasons for yearning for the hope of pardon and the hope of mercy, but also for making bold to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, not hesitating to establish a covenant of union with God, and not being ashamed to carry the sweet yoke of love along with the King of the Angels,” like Mary.
In his Praises of the Virgin, it is through Mary that Bernard describes the mystery of God and of man, and the mystery of the Fiat which gave beginning to the relationship between man and God and is able to invade the Christian soul and impregnate it with God. In particular, there are two ?gures which help us say our own “Fiat” to God, the Virgin as star and as divine lover.
According to St. Bernard, Mary is the star of the sea, the guide for every man, and the guide for our history because in her is found the perfect humanity. Since she is the vertex of mankind, in her is summarized human history. Man is no longer alone in his quest for God; he is no longer abandoned to the uncertainty of the sea waters in the dark night, for a ?rm point has appeared in heaven: it is the Mother. “Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on ?rm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm. ... Look at the star, call upon Mary. ... With her for guide, you shall not go astray, while invoking her, you shall never lose heart ... if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”
St. Bernard tells us that to live and love as Mary did, we must pray as Mary did, and hold our gaze continuously on God. And for this, says the Saint, "we must beware of the danger of excessive activity, regardless of one’s condition and occupation, including those inherent to the governance of the Church, because “numerous occupations often lead to hardness of heart; they are suffering for the spirit, loss of intelligence and dispersion of grace.”
It is a message also for our day, said Pope Benedict on the 20th of August 2006 in his Angelus address: “How useful for us also is this call to the primacy of prayer! May St. Bernard, who was able to harmonize the monk’s aspiration for solitude and the tranquility of the cloister with the urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church, help us to concretize it in our lives, in our circumstances and possibilities. We entrust this dif?cult desire to ?nd a balance between interiority and necessary work to the intercession of the Virgin, whom he loved from his childhood with tender and ?lial devotion.” The words of St. Bernard and those of Pope Benedict form a powerful foundation for the “Theology of work” which calls for balance in our lives.