by Beth Gavrilles
December 10, 2019
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
This devotional image of the annunciation is a fresco by Beato Angelico, an Italian painter of the early Renaissance who was a Dominican friar. It is painted on the wall of a monk’s cell in the monastery of San Marco in Florence as a focus for contemplation.
When I look at this image, I imagine the scene it depicts takes place just after Gabriel has delivered his startling message and Mary has accepted it. They both seem, to me, to be contemplating what has just happened and what is about to happen. The world has shifted; nothing will be the same. The scene is still and quiet. There is no extraneous detail to draw the eye, mind, and heart away from what’s important.
The figure on the left is St. Peter Martyr, and may have been the work of a student of Angelico’s, but he, like the viewer, is focused on Mary and Gabriel and what’s passing between them. The stillness is expectant; the silence is alive. With them we are waiting for what is to come.
Prayer: God, let us see the world with our hearts as we await the coming of Jesus.