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Feast of the Annunciation

(Two entries in one day, whatever is the world coming to?!)

From wikipedia:
The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would become the Theotokos (God-bearer). Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive a child who would be the called the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning “YHWH delivers”. Most of Christianity observes this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, nine full months before Christmas.

Beginning in 2010, the Annunciation feast is a national holiday in Lebanon celebrated by both Christians and Muslims by virtue of a governmental decree.

Of course I think it should be a national holiday in Canada as well, so I would get my birthday off every year!

The annunciation story as told in Scripture:

From the Gospel named for Luke, chapter 1, verses 26-38 (NRSV):

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’*

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’*

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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.’

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.

Now I personally don't read the annunciation story literally, but I absolutely love the message of opening ourselves to the presence of God and allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, even when what we are called to do seems impossible.

Some of my favourite paintings of the Annunciation:

The first few are photos I took myself during my last wonderful stay in Florence.

Can't quite recall where this photo was taken, will check my notes:

This is a lovely annunciation painting in Santa Trinita, by a female artist in the 1700's (I think):

Another from Santa Trinita, I believe this one is by Neri di Bicci:

The following images are ones I found on the internet, but I have seen all of these paintings/frescos in person, and they are stunning:

Fra Angelico's serene and graceful fresco in San Marco, Florence:

Botticelli's interpretation...I like the "no, I can't...yes, I will" impression of doubt overcome by trust and faith, evident in Mary's body language (at least that's what it says to me). Looks like she was knocked sideways by the news and then let herself be drawn into God's presence:

Simone di Martini's rendition which also seems to portray a moment of doubt before Mary placed her trust in God:

And finally, Leonardo da Vinci's angel (the Mary figure was painted by Andrea del Verrocchio, to whom Leonardo was apprenticed. I read that the angel's wings were later extended by another artist):

Comments (8)


Wonderful post, Anne. I'm fascinated by images of the Annunciation, and these are all stunning.

I'm especially intrigued by di Martini's take -- I think the reluctance is not a common image.

I'm also fascinated by paintings of the Annunciation. These are all beautiful but my all-time favorite has always been Fra Angelico's divine fresco.

I sent my birthday wishes via Facebook but I’ll send them again here: Buon Compleanno, cara Anne!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Anne, lovely post. I always love reading your interpretations and I always agree with them and find them so right on the mark. This is an amazing collection of paintings. I have to review my notes but I think I saw a beautiful painting at the Prado. I can gaze upon these paintings for hours. There's such a tenderness.

I've missed reading your blog...Have a wonderful weekend.


Sandra, I am very drawn to Martini's compelling depiction. I read a critique that argued against portraying the reluctance when painting the Annunciation, otherwise one is missing the message of grace and trust. But for me, it's very affirming and reassuring to acknowledge that we all face doubts and fears on our journey. I think it's an even more powerful statement of trust to open ourselves to God in spite of uncertainty.

Maria, I love Fra Angelico's fresco too. It is so full of grace and serenity. I found it very uplifting and peaceful to gaze upon it in San Marco...was hard pressed to turn away! It was another of many "am I really here seeing this iconic image in person?" moments.

Kathy, how nice to hear from you! I'm so glad you enjoyed my post. :) I must ask my mom if any annunciation paintings stood out for her when she visit the Prado. I myself haven't (yet) made it to Spain!

Anne, that was an absolutely stunning post. Love the way you presented each picture and lead me to contemplate the facial expressions and meanings. GREAT


Thanks Deborah, I was telling a friend recently how often I find new meaning around the stories of Scripture when I gaze upon great works of art. Something in the painting will reveal sometime I hadn't previously considered. I think I just found my Gratitude Friday topic - art!

Great post. I love the Annunciation (and not just because we can break Lent to eat fish), but I feel it is the beginning of the journey. I love contemplating Annunciation art.


Candi, how interesting, I did not know about being able to break Lent on this day. I like your thoughts about it being the beginning of the journey. That holds special meaning for me this year, as I contemplate my own new beginning, not just through Lent but with my whole being and life.

(Hurry up and approve my request, people of my Presbytery!!!)

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