Entering into the Annunciation
A Reflection on Luke 1:26-38
This Sunday’s Gospel is the account of the Annunciation from the Gospel of Luke. This story is so powerful. Nothing I write can do it justice. If you’ve never prayed before with your imagination (St Ignatius called it contemplation), I invite you to try with this gospel.
Read through these verses once or twice to familiarize yourself with it. Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, as prayer is only prayer by the grace of God. Then, close your eyes and imagine the scene. What do you see, hear, smell? Imagine the quiet town of Nazareth. Is it day or night? Are there children running, laughing, playing? Where is Mary? Is she in her home, singing a hymn softly to herself as she goes about her daily chores? Is she walking out to the well? Does she smile and wave at friends as she passes by?
Now, imagine Gabriel, worshipping before the throne of God. Sent by God, where does he meet Mary? How does he approach her? Is he kneeling before the one he hopes will soon bear the Son of God?
Watch Mary’s reaction to seeing the angel. Is she afraid or amazed? Or a mixture of both? Ponder the greeting of the angel with her. What is she feeling? Confusion? Awe? Fear?
Now read the words of Gabriel’s message out loud. Imagine hearing those words the first time they were spoken. You can even put yourself in the place of Mary or Gabriel. What is Gabriel feeling? Is he passionate with joyful anticipation as he speaks this promise of God?
Sit in the quiet for a minute. The pause, as Gabriel awaits Mary’s answer. Listen to Mary’s breath as she wonders over this message. Is she trembling? Is it all too much? Or is the message a confirmation of a mysterious call she had felt deep within herself, a deep desire to hear the will of God and do it, to take part in a mission greater than herself? She speaks her yes, her “fiat.” Does she whisper? Does she look up into Gabriel’s eye as she speaks, or bow her head in humble, yet free, submission? What does she feel when the angel leaves? What is spoken in her heart in the silence that follows?
You don’t have to ponder every one of these questions. They are only suggestions to get you started. Find the one that stirs your heart, and let yourself be led by the Spirit. If it is helpful, look up images of the Annunciation (there is a lot of beautiful, sacred art out there!) and use them in your prayer. What in that scene resonates with you? What is God trying to tell you? Sometimes it will be a message or word, sometimes just a feeling – anticipation or joy or gratitude.
Have a blessed last week of Advent!
Cestello Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli