Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have not known a man?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Luke 1:34-35
Grow quiet and still. Open your mind and heart to this image, to the Scripture, to the divine Presence. As you gaze, what do you see? What do you feel? Can you sense an invitation to you from the Spirit? What might it be?
Here she is again: the ecstatic Mary, arms outstretched and hands wide open to receive every ounce of God’s love for her and its great claim on her. The Spirit hovers over her, just as it hovered over the primal void before creation began. This is a scene of breathtaking mutual love.
Notice how the three “characters” perfectly match each other. The dove’s wings, Mary’s arms, the angel’s arms—all of them spread diagonally in complementary angles; these three have formed themselves into a symbolic triangle. Gabriel, smiling, makes two of the lines unambiguous: he points upward toward the Most High and forward toward Mary: heaven and earth are being joined. The news washes over her, and in the opening of her arms to it, we notice all the more the color of her cloak. Usually her prominent colors are blue and red, but Poussin shows her in a cloak of bright yellow, a color associated with hope, happiness, and glory.
You have surely noticed that in almost every depiction of the Annunciation, Mary has a book, and it is open. She is literate and studious. The size of the book is larger here than in other depictions. Though we cannot read this one, many other pictures show legible words on the page: words from the prophet Isaiah: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel.” It seems that Mary had been waiting for this child’s arrival. The joy that sweeps over her now is that this child will come very soon, and—amazingly—that he will come through her.
To open our arms to the news that Christ is born in us is to reject the living of a joyless life. It is to be astonished again by how divine love honors us. It is to find hope again that the world can be mended and that we are participants in that miracle. It is to surrender to perfect love—for us, for all.
Holy Spirit, wash over me with fresh news of God’s perfect love on my life and on the life of all the world. Amen.