March 25, 2009

Annunciation in Art

Today is the Calendar day for the Annunciation, when Gabriel came to Mary. (There is exactly nine months until Christmas.)

Isaiah 7:14 spoke of this event, "Behold a virgin ..." This is the day back in time God chose to enter our history. Mary in her "Yes" became the link between Heaven and Earth. We call this 'taking on flesh' the Incarnation.

I selected some works of art. There are probably over 100 done of this event. If you were to sit with this scripture and imagine a picture, what would yours look like? I imagine Mary during her day-to-day doings, like maybe carrying laundry, and in the excitement (fear!) of a visiting angel, throw up her hands, and dropping it all!

What does it mean "favored by God?" Does it mean Mary was perfect? Who else in scripture was favored by God? Abel was, and was killed by Cain. Sarah was favored at 90. Abraham was, and was asked to sacrifice his only son. Joseph was, and was sold into slavery. Moses was, and died, trying to get to the promised land. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba found favor, yet suffered betrayal, deaths, scandals and isolation. Job lost everything. Naomi turned bitter. The Israelites wandered for 40 years.

What would Mary's "yes" mean? What the angel proposed went against the norm of Mary's expectations and dreams of what marriage, pregnancy, and then birth typically looked like. What if your daughter came home with such a story as hers, claiming she was pregnant with the Son of God, would you believe her, laugh? ... and wasn't that blasphemy?

I had to ask myself, considering that God does not coerce us, and gives us freedom, did Mary have a choice? Could Mary have refused? Would God have just gone to another maiden? "Yes" is a choice.

If Mary knew beforehand of Bethlehem, the stable...and then angelic hosts, shepherds, magi, flight into Egypt, children slaughtered, the visit to the temple ... even her Son's betrayal and death ... would she have said "Yes"?

Can I trust God with my life? enough to say "Yes"? Do I want to be impregnated by God's holy Word? I have said "Yes". Every time I say "Yes" the Holy Spirit impregnates me (overshadows me) and something new comes to birth in me. "Here I am, thy servant Lord. Let it be with me according to Your word."

The art is by El Greco, Andrea del Sarto, Caravaggio, Dante Gabriel Rosseti, or is there an Arthur Hacker piece (I'm confused)?

The last two pictures are more modern. HeQi did the fifth picture, in 2001. The last, by Jim Hasse is called The Incarnation - World Annunciation.

Mary's response to it all? A song.
The girl says "yes", and the angel left her. Our World is changed.
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