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