The Annunciation, c.1534-35 (oil on canvas), Lotto, Lorenzo (c.1480-1556)
Museo Civico, Recanati, Italy / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library
As we prepare ourselves this year for the Advent of our Lord and Saviour, some of us may feel a particular urgency in our cry ‘Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus’.
In England, at least our Anglican church, and I must suspect also our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers are in disarray and, those of us who value particularly the diversity of the Anglican church and the way in which, despite differences of emphasis, it has held together the different tensions ever since the Reformation, feel deeply saddened by the events of the past weeks. However, out of tribulation come blessings and we pray for Archbishop Rowan that following his inspirational lecture given at the Symposium in Rome to celebrate the jubilee of Cardinal Willebrands, renewal and new direction may be given to the ecumenical dialogue between our churches
It is our Christian duty to have HOPE and, at the Feast of Advent we must follow the prophet Isaiah in affirming “Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my Saviour.” Isaiah 12:2
This version of ‘The Annunciation’ by Lorenzo Lotto is for me one of the most thrilling depictions – the force of the Holy Spirit terrifies Mary, but look at the cat and how it is cringing at the sight of the angel. It puts into perspective the enormity of the occasion. But then look again and see the serene obedience of Mary, her humility in accepting the impossible – accepting that she is to become the Mother of God.
I used to hesitate in accepting the importance of Mary’s role in the Incarnation. How ignorant I was! Perhaps if it were not that my church in Rye is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin I might have taken even longer to come to revere her and place her before all the Saints. An exhibition in the Abbaye des Dames in Caen, Normandy greatly assisted me. Entitled “L’équilibration de la Vierge Marie”, it was an inspired ecumenical move to help churches of the Reformation give Mary her rightfulplace as Mother of God, while at the same time emphasizing that it is to God we pray, by His grace, through his Son Jesus Christ. My reverence for the Blessed Virgin has been further heightened by my experience of the Orthodox Church and her place at the forefront of their liturgy.
So let us all rejoice in Mary’s humility and grace, praying that with her we may know God’s will for us, and be graced to respond by growing together in holiness; ready to respond to challenges, sometimes very painful to confront, and commit ourselves anew to become the people God wills us to be
“My soul proclaims the greatness or the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;
For he has looked with favour on his lowly servant:
from this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me:
and holy is his name;
He has mercy on those who fear him:
in every generation. Magnificat
With best wishes to you all in the unconditional love of Jesus Christ who is King, Friend and Brother! Should we not all be joyful at His coming?