The angel entered where Mary was
Most of our images of the Annunciation have Mary in a contemplative state – with arms crossed, kneeling, or – anachronistically reading a book. I especially love Fra Angelico’s fresco in the San Marcos Convent in Florence.
There is a Byzantine icon of the angel greeting Mary at a well, based on a story in the Protevangelium of James.
But I really wonder if they have all got it wrong.
What would a woman be doing in a house? Most likely, cleaning, washing clothes and dishes, preparing meals, and maybe even sewing, repairing clothes, or spinning wool. But I have seen almost no images with Mary doing any one these things when the angel Gabriel arrives.
There are also a few icons that have Mary with a distaff.
There is also a painting by JW Waterhouse which has Mary kneeling with what appears to be a spindle on the ground beside her. (But there is also the anachronistic book.)
Yet the angel entered and found Mary in her house.
The angel found Zacharias in the temple. Angels appeared to Joseph in dreams. Angels appeared to the women at the tomb of Jesus. But the Angel Gabriel makes a house call to Mary.
I was thinking of this as I prepared to preach this morning in Debajiados. Without conferring beforehand, Padre German mentioned at the beginning of Mass that the angel came into Mary’s house.
We can encounter God – and God’s messengers – anywhere, especially in our daily lives. We don’t have to be praying; we don’t have to be reading a spiritual book; we don’t have to be kneeling or with our arms crossed over our chests. God comes whenever and wherever.
That is part of the message of many saints and mystics, including Brother Lawrence, famous for his Practice of the Presence of God amid the pots and pans.
But a spirituality which doesn’t take the Incarnation seriously makes many think that we have to be pious to hear God. Piety helps, but attentiveness is more important. And perhaps even more important is being open to God who comes in the little things as well as in the great surprises.
And so let us make sure that we are attentive when the angels enter our house.