The Annunciation is the subject of the Gospel of the fourth and final Sunday of Advent in the current year, the Year of Mark or Year B of the three-year cycle.
I often find it interesting and helpful to look at how artists, sculptors or literary figures portray events like the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary.
Henry Ossawa Tanner paintedThe Annunciation soon after returning to Paris from a trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1897. Tanner was the son of a minister in one of the African churches and he specialized in religious subjects. In a visit to the Holy Land he experienced the people, culture, architecture, and light of the Holy Land. Influenced by what he saw, he created an unconventional image of the moment when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Mary is shown as an adolescent dressed in rumpled Middle Eastern peasant clothing, without a halo or other holy attributes. Gabriel appears only as a shaft of light.
One can only imagine the fright a young woman from this background must have got. Naturally, her first reaction was one of fear, but God’s messenger immediately sought to reassure her, bringing home to her the fact that God can do all things – even the impossible. In the face of the impossible God works the possible!
As if to prove the point the angelic messenger told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, long past the age of childbearing, was expecting a baby in a few months.
Sometimes we are presented with the seemingly impossible in our own lives.