The Annunciation

Buechner describes works of art picturing the Annunciation:

AS THE ANCIENT prophecies foretold, it is a virgin who is to bear the holy child. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," the angel announces, "and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." It is not old Joseph but God who is the father. Paul, Mark, Matthew, the earliest writers about Jesus, say nothing of a virgin birth, but by the time Luke wrote his gospel, it had come to seem that nothing less wonderful could account for the wonders he was gospeling. This extraordinary life could have had a beginning no less extraordinary. History creates heroes. Heredity is responsible for human greatness. Evil also evolves. Only holiness happens.

Mary pondered these things in her heart, and countless generations have pondered them with her. She is sitting on a Gothic throne with her hands crossed at her breast and the book she has been reading open on her lap. The dove of the Holy Ghost hovers in the archway above her, and Gabriel kneels close by with a lily in his hand this time, the emblem of purity, chastity, kingship.

Again Mary's head is bowed, and she looks up at him through her lashes. There is possibly the faintest trace of a skeptic's smile on her lips. "How shall this be, seeing that I know not a man?" she asks, and the angel's painted gaze turns her question back upon herself. The angel, the whole creation, even God himself, all hold their breath as they wait upon the answer of a girl.

"Be it unto me according to thy word," she finally says, and jewels blossom like morning-glories on the arch above them. Everything has turned to gold. A golden girl. A golden angel. They are on their feet now. Their knees are bent to a glittering rhythm. Gabriel's robe swings free about his ankles, and his scroll flies out from his waist like a sash. Mary's hands are raised, palms forward, and Gabriel reaches out to take one of them. They are caught up together in a stately, golden dance. Their faces are grave. From a golden cloud between them and above, the Leader of the Dance looks on.

The announcement has been made and heard. The world is with child.

-Originally published in The Faces of Jesus

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