The Annunciation – a poem

I heard recently an interesting advent sermon from Andrew Robinson (who once contributed stimulating things over here), about Mary. I won’t blame Andrew for anything I write here, but as protestants we can be hasty to throw Mary out completely, as smelling of Catholicism with a mere mention, and yet she has things to teach us, as an exemplary disciple of the Lord, particularly in her response to what is required of her.

In the course of the sermon, Andrew read a couple of portions of the poem The Annunciation by Denise Levertov (whose father, incidentally, was an Anglican priest, though there might be objections to her notion of choice) in particular the lines “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?”. Love it. So here is an unusual advent poem. (And why is there a book on a lecturn and a lily in most annunciation paintings? Put it in google images and see.)

Annunciation, by Auguste Pichon, from Wikigallery.org.

The Annunciation

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lecturn, a book; always
the tall lily.

Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whome she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent. God waited.

She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,

More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.

God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, spelt
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumpf.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked

a simple, “How can this be?”
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

~Denise Levertov (poem taken from here).


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