Tag Archives: icon

The angel entered the house

The angel entered where Mary was
Luke 1:28

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.

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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.

Annunciation

Coptic icon of teh Annunciation 91995) by Bedour Latif and Yousef Nassief

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.)

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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.

 

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The Virgin of Tenderness

One of my favorite icons of Mary is the Virgin of Tenderness, also known as the Vladimir Mother of God.

There is a stunning icon of the Virgin in the church of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, written by Yaroslava Sumach Mills.

The iconographer worked with the parish to write an icon that fits so well into the church – for example, the color of Mary’s mantle matches the color of the rosewood of the altar.

Yaroslava came to Ames and spoke about her work and even provided the parish with a series of photos of the icon being written. She also left a line drawing of the Vladimir icon.

I brought a copy of that line drawing to Honduras and have passed it on to the catechists in the parish of Dulce Nombre so that the children can color the icon or make copies.

Wednesday, I went to the village of Pasquingual to lead a Celebration of the Word with Communion for the father of one of the Delegates of the Word there. On the wall of the church there were several drawings, including this one of the Vladimir Mother of God, by Nicol, one of the children there.

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I was overwhelmed. Nicol captured the life and spirit of the icon.

You  can compare this with the line drawing she had

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or with this detail of the original

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We may have a young iconographer in our midst.

And so we pray,

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us and for all the world.