Sisters in Scripture
Second Week of Advent

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
Isaiah 11:2-4 

Second Week of Advent

Over the last several Advents, Betsey Beckman and I have collaborated in presenting the Advent retreat ONCE UPON A TIME IN A TOWN CALLED NAZARETH.  While I cannot possibly re-create that experience for you here in newsletter format, here is a sampling sent to you as a labor of love. May it bless your preparation for the coming of Christ. 


When Betsey first created her StoryDance for the Annunciation, she had to consider how to best set the scene. She decided to have Mary hanging laundry. This gave her an array of colorful scarves to dance with (clever!) and created an indelible visual impact. It was Betsey's StoryDance that first inspired me and begged the question, "What was Mary doing when Gabriel appeared?" (To see more of Betsey's movement artistry, go to The Dancing Word.)
On our Advent retreat, we again ask the question of participants, "What do you think Mary was doing?" We then take a look at art through the ages to see how others have answered the question. Every artist, like Betsey, has had to think not only of Mary's setting but also some thought provoking questions like how to make the Divine visible, how does one respond when that happens, how is this relevant today?
Here's a tidbit sampling from the retreat. As you look at each picture, feel free to click on the image to enlarge it so you can look at the details. Enjoy! 
Earliest known depiction of the Annunciation from the Catacombe of St. Priscilla, 2nd Century
Early icon from the 11th C. St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
In the East, icons serve as an aid to meditation and a window into prayer. As such the style has changed little with this contemporary icon. 
In the Middle Ages, the West began to produce art, moving beyond the icon, creating triptychs, sculptures and single-frame narratives and bringing personal interpretation into their depiction. Look closely for a tiny Holy Spirit in the from God the Father to Mary. 
From the Early Renaissance, another altarpiece, this one by Simone Martini. So much to notice in this. Emotion really begins to make an appearance here. Look at Mary's face.
Close up of Martini piece done in gold on a wood panel - real gold. Using gold adds brightness and light in a time before electric lights. The liveliness and beauty of this piece must have really made those viewing it think of light, beauty, and purity. 

Most of us think of various interpretations from classical art when we imagine the Annunciation. Take a scroll through some of these paintings below, but begin to notice the details. Make a list of various elements you see appearing in similar/different ways. 

Leonardo DaVinci, 1452, age 20
Philippe de Champaigne, 1644

Francisco de Zuberan, 1650
This tryptych invites you into the scene. The right panel shows Joseph at his workbench. The left panel is the patron who commissioned the piece entering the door of his own home where Mary is serenely at prayer. (Click to enlarge for details - light beam to Mary, mouse with Joseph.)

- Robert Campin, Flemish, 1425-30

 A couple of startling different renditions that offer different explanations for what Mary is doing. . . 

Henry Ossawa Tanner, African-American painter, 1898

John William Waterhouse, Englis 1914

Lorenzo Lotto's Annunciation, 1534

Other approaching Gabriels offer the lily
In a ceremonial hush to humble girls
Who bow their heads or touch their breasts. She whirls
Away as the angel runs in willy-nilly
And sinks to one knee, hair streaming—as if hurried
To get there ahead of God, who stretches His arm,
From a cloud in the doorway, while the striped cat scurries
For shelter, its tail an elongated S of alarm.

Hands raised protectively, she turns to look
Straight out at us—in shock, or mute appeal?
Forgotten behind her lies the open book.
In the tumult of the divine turned terribly real,
Only her face is strangely still, the eyes
Wide with apprehension and surmise.

-       Catherine Tufariello, 2001 

Had to include this unique Lotto piece along with this contemporary poem by Tufariello--enjoy!

 Even as Christ's coming is for all, so this story has universal appeal. Every age and people has made it their own.

He Qi, China
Guatamalen, contemporary
Museum of African Art
And so do we. . .

Commissioned by St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in McKinney Texas, where my daughter once lived. The scene looks very much like the suburban neighborhood where the church is located. Mary, the teenager from Nazareth. becomes a schoolgirl in Texas. Look for familiar elements and notice the facial expression of both Mary and Gabriel.

John Collier, 2000
TO PRAY AND PONDER: Over each Christmas card you send and receive, say a prayer for the other. Notice and enjoy the choices that were made in the artwork chosen.

TO DO: Why not try your hand at your own rendition of the Annunciation in a medium of your choosing?

NEXT WEEK: Mary's Yes! What does it mean?

Interested in hosting a future Advent Retreat or other event, please contact Kathleen. To learn more about Sisters in Scripture, visit us at Sisters in Scripture. You'll find a recent clip of Kathleen speaking at United Lutheran, Bella Vista, AR on the About Kathleen page. 

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