I will be posting two Advent reflections each week this season. They will each be based on one of the 10 greatest paintings of the Christmas story ever produced. I trust you find them life-giving and hope-enlarging.
Look carefully at the painting above. Examine every section. Explore the artist’s design. What do you see? Now read the Bible text. Then read my reflection below. Each reflection will end with a beautiful prayer for you to recite.
1 THE ANNUNCIATION
Artwork: The Annunciation – Fra Angelico, Convent of San Marco, Florence
Reading: Luke 1:26-38
Look at Mary.
Look closely at her.
She looks exquisite. Her hands folded across her belly. Her figure slightly bent. Her face passive and staring. She looks like she’s in shock, as if she’s just been hit by something in the very center of her being. Like she’s been kicked in the guts.
The painter, Fra Angelico, a Florentine monk, depicts Mary as if she has conceived her child at the exact moment the angel’s word is spoken. Just as the world was created by God’s spoken word in Genesis, so the Incarnation is initiated by the angel’s word.
The word gives life.
The virgin is with child.
The Christ is coming.
And Mary receives it all exactly the way we should all receive this revelation: in awe, and bewilderment, and astonishment. Although not much more than a child herself, Mary receives the word with obedience and resolution: “I am the Lord’s servant,” she stammers, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
May this Advent you become more open to receiving the Word of Christ deep into the very center of your being. And like a kick in the guts might it leave you winded. Might the shock of it result in an even more resolved, more obedient, version of yourself. And might the love of Christ grow in you to full maturity.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You became Incarnate as man
in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary.
You, through whom the universe was created,
began your earthly course,
in the womb of a humble and chaste virgin.
At the annunciation of this miracle,
Mary responded in faith:
“Let it be done to me
according to your word.”
May we who are made new creatures
by your grace,
respond with such faith,
when you call us to your service. Amen
by David Bennett