This past week the liturgical calendar included the celebration of the Annunciation. When I contemplate the angel Gabriel‘s delivering the “good news” to the young Virgin Mary, I can understand Mary being greatly troubled. It was an amazing event. First, there was an angel with her. Second, the angel is telling her she will have a son—not just a baby boy in the future as a married woman, but the son of God–now.
Mary was young, but she knew what being a virgin meant. She was still a virgin. She was betrothed, and her husband would expect a virgin. He would have every right to refuse her and her unborn child. She also knew in her social context what being with child meant without a husband. She would be ostracized. How frightening for a young girl.
I got to thinking about how famous paintings portrayed this scene from the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. It was a favorite religious theme in eras of religious devotion. So I googled The Annunciation in fine art and was amazed at the rich and varied portrayals of this Biblical scene. But I was also perplexed a bit by how and where Mary appeared in these representations. She looked calm and serene, royally garbed in luxurious, flowing gowns in a setting of a palace or an elaborate formal garden surrounded by Greco-Roman columns. In others she was seated on a throne; in one she was before a prie-dieu with what looked like a printed missal; in yet another she was in a temple setting. In many, Mary looked distant and unconcerned. I could not connect with any of these representations of an event and a person that is embedded with such power in my heart and my soul. Then, I found the painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
I immediately connected with Rossetti’s image of this scene. Here is the vulnerability I imagined. Here too is a countenance that is troubled. Yet, from this young woman, dressed simply and in a modest setting, will come great courage and great loyalty and an undying love for her God and for the son she shares with eternity. So much is asked of her. Yet, she believes the angel Gabriel when he says, “…nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) The young Virgin Mary puts her life in the hands of God and says,“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
May we be blessed with the faith and courage to act according to our beliefs.