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, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – Luke 1:26-28
Become quiet and still. Open your heart to this moment, to this image, to this Scripture, to God. Take your time. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you sense is God’s invitation to you?
Tilman Riemenschneider, master sculptor of the late Middle Ages, believed sculpture ought to be a “kinetic” experience, one that invites the viewer to move around the work physically or in the imagination. His striking version of the annunciation beckons us to lean in, move around, and consider this scene from all angles.
The angel looks as if he has just flown in – his gown billows behind him, his curls appear blown back, the toes of his left foot stick out from under his hem as he lands. His lips are parted as if to speak. The figure of the angel is dynamic, full of movement and energy. We can almost feel the air moving around him as he rushes towards the girl.
In contrast, Mary, at her reading bench, seems subdued. She has closed her book; her mouth is closed, too. There is no movement in her robes or her hair. She is completely still. And what is the expression on her face? Is it surprise? Confusion? Fear? Wonder?
The sculpture is just the two of them. There is no architecture, no dove, no lily, no scenery of any kind to fill in details. It is just the encounter – the vigorous arrival of the messenger, the restrained reception of the listener, and the space in between them. Space for the encounter. Space for his message. Space for her to listen and ponder. Space for her to respond.
Philosopher Martin Buber argued that true growth happens not in relation to oneself but in the relationship between oneself and another. This transformation “is to be found neither in one of the two partners nor in both together, but in their dialogue itself, in this ‘between’ which they live together.” This “between” is the space between beings, the space not of distance, not of engulfment, but of encounter.
Most of us could use more space in our lives. More room in our schedules. More intentional quiet in our days. More room in our relationships for listening and responding rather than reacting. More mindfulness in how we move through the day. True encounter requires space. The space doesn’t just happen, especially in today’s hectic world. We have to create it, just as a sculpture carves away what isn’t necessary, just as an artist decides what does and does not belong in the scene.
What is one thing you can do today that would open up space – even just a little bit – for you to encounter God?
God of interruption, disruption, and encounter, help me to open up space in my life for encountering the mystery of your presence within me and all around me, and responding to it. Amen.