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?
What is an annunciation if there is no one there to do the announcing? We can do without the dove, the lily, the architecture, the scenery, but what about the angel? Groundbreaking Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina confronts us with an annunciation condensed into a single figure.
All we see is a young woman in blue, with nothing more than a book and a lectern. She has no halo and no throne. But there is light. The light from an unknown source illuminates the girl against the dark background. Antonello’s use of light and space brings her forward into full three-dimensionality, focusing our attention on her face, her presence. She looks up from her book and out towards us. Her right hand reaches forward, as if out of the painting, towards us. We are standing in Gabriel’s place. We are the ones who have arrived to greet her. We have initiated an interaction. We are the bearers of blessing. We are not just observing the story, we are participating in it. We are part of the holy mystery with her. She is there and then, we are here and now, and yet our connection is direct. This is encounter.
She raises her hand towards us, in greeting, in blessing. She raises her hand towards the mystery that has come to greet her. She reaches towards the space between us. She reaches with an open hand towards an unseen future. Her hand hovers between then and now. She reaches towards encounter. There is such courage in this gesture. Hail!
She reaches towards encounter. What about us? Can we greet holy mystery with her? Can we greet the future with a blessing? Can we reach towards the eternal Thou with her? Encountering the eternal Thou is scary because the encounter isn’t predictable or containable. We can’t control it or bend it towards our self-interest. All we can do is reach, with an open hand. All we can do is greet, and bless.
She shows us how. Hail!
Today, consider what it might mean for you to reach towards the uncontainable God. In what ways might God be inviting you to stretch and grow? What initiative might you need to take, despite not knowing the outcome? What blessing might you need to offer on events or people in your life that are not under your control? How might any of this lead you to true encounter with God or others?
God of the in-between, help me reach towards you and others, with openness, courage, and love.