The Annunciation of the Birth of Christ
The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
Scholars say that the stories of the birth and infancy of Jesus which are found in Luke’s Gospel were originally written in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and Mary. Tradition has it that many of these stories may have been told to the disciples of Jesus by Mary herself. The Gospel writer also included what struck him as prophetic references to Jesus in Jewish Scriptures.
The messenger from God, named Gabriel, comes with a strange message. Mary’s first reaction is fear. Then the messenger says that Mary has found favour with God and is to be a mother. This perplexes her; how this is to happen as she is a virgin? She is told the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. Finally, Mary agrees to the will of God.
Have you ever followed an unlikely call in your life?
Our artist today, Henry Ossawa Tanner, shows the messenger from God as a pillar of light rather than a winged angel. This captures the mystical nature of this encounter.
Stilling: Throughout the retreat we suggest you begin your prayer with a stilling exercise.
Preparation: After the stilling, dedicate the time of prayer to God and ask God that all you think, feel and imagine are for the glory of God.
Gift: Ask for what you desire. Suggestion: to be able to accept the call of God in your own life.
Setting: Imagine you are watching Mary or talking to her about how she received the message that she was to have a child of God.
Luke 1:26-38 NRSVA
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, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’
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.
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son;
and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.
For nothing will be impossible with God.’
Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
Then the angel departed from her.
Conversation: Every day when you come close to the end of the prayer you are invited to have a conversation with Jesus or Mary. Imagine yourself talking to Jesus or Mary as a friend; a familiar conversation talking about whatever concerns you.
How do they reply? God can speak through our imagination. Often we seem to get unexpected and rapid replies. If you suspect that a reply is just your imagination, ask yourself if Jesus or Mary of the Gospels is likely to have said such a thing. Most often the answer is ‘yes’.
Final Prayer: You may like to end your prayer each day with a formal prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father, or a Hail Mary.
The music is Ave Maria (the prayer ‘Hail Mary’) in Hebrew sung by Harpa Dei