Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Bring You Great Tidings

My favorite painting is The Annunciation by Fra Angelico from the fifteenth century, and when I first saw it over twenty-five years ago, I had just graduated from college and was traveling through Europe with two girlfriends. The painting hangs at San Marco, in Florence, and I can still remember how much it affected me when I literally "came upon it" wandering those ancient halls. Many years later, I visited the painting again and was struck not only by its beauty but by the resignation of its main subject, Mary, as she receives news from the Angel Gabriel that she is to bear the son of God. I wrote about the painting and my response to it and the essay was published in an online journal called Slow Trains. 

At Christmas, I often think of Mary and the Annunciation and what I perceive to be her resignation. I think about waiting for a baby to come, both that ancient story of the baby Jesus but also of my own three babies. I think about waiting and expectation and the dimming of expectation, of the sadness inherent in Mary's waiting and resignation. I think about waiting for Sophie to stop having seizures, waiting for her to stop having this seizure. I think of my resignation in waiting and how it pales in comparison to Mary's when that strange and terrible Angel came bearing that strange and terrible news. I think of how, at best, my own resignation comes purely from Grace.

Waiting and resignation and acceptance and peace.

Yesterday, Renee at Circling My Head posted this Christmas song. I'd never heard it but felt it was perfect for my Christmas Eve post.

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flames
"Oh hail" has said he to Holy Maiden Mary
(to holy mary)
Most highly favoured maid Gloria
(Most highly favoured maid Gloria)

Forknown a blessed mother thou shalt be
For generations loan and honnaly
Thy son shall be Imanuel th'as years forsawt =(forseen)
Most highly favoured maid Gloria
(Most highly favoured maid Gloria)

The gentle Mary neatly bowed the head
"To me, be as it pleaseth God" she said
"My soul shall whole and magnify this holy maid"
Most highly favoured maid Gloria
(Most highly favoured maid Gloria)

Of her Imanuel, the Christ was crossed
His Bethlehem all honor Christmas ghost
As everyone through out the world will Heaven save
Most highly favoured maid Gloria
(Most highly favoured maid Gloria)

Have a blessed Christmas Eve!


  1. That is a beautiful picture, a beautiful song, a beautiful story to hold on to when things call for deep resignation.
    Your soul is magnified, dear Elizabeth. Always.

  2. I have never seen that painting. Or thought about the concept of resignation in that way.

    Thank you for sharing. I hope you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas!

  3. thank you thank you, elizabeth.

    if i have a reasonable moment today i may just have to link to your post.

    thank you.

  4. I'm so glad you found that painting, that piece of something that you've kept tucked in your heart.
    And now shared it with us.
    I'm glad to have you this year, and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

  5. merryMODchristmas!

    Elizabeth, what an amazing woman, mother and wife you are. From what little I know you, I know that this is true! May God's peace, grace and many blessings fall on you, your gorgeous family and your lovely home! Have a wonderful day!

    Peace + Love


  6. Beautiful dear friend.

    When you were in Italy is that the time you saw a young girl having a seizure?

    Merry Christmas and have the most wonderful time with the kids.

    I am praying for no seizures today.

    Love Renee xoxo

  7. To wait is to hope, otherwise why? You know, you do in that magnificent way that you do things that to you seem unimportant create the right environment for keeping hope alive, waiting, waiting for what in your heart you know it must come.

    I remember that picture well. I was young too, and like you I was taken by the fact that she didn't look happy to me. This was in my old Catholic days when I guess if I would have been in her place my ego would have transformed my face into a reflection of the glory - forget about the pain - at the realization that I was the chosen one. Today, older and wiser I would declined the honor. And wait.

    As usual you have brought memories, the cloth of our lives, to wrap ourselves in those cold nights when all we do is wait. Lets wait together. Reaching for the individual and the common memories to reinforce that either we are believers or just crazy. Either way, waiting is hope.

    May all your hopes be realized in the coming year, my dearest Elizabeth. May the Goodness Moon shine upon your nights of waiting...and hoping.

  8. A beautiful post Elizabeth .... I often feel that Christmas is a heavy time filled with something deeper than mere excitement and anticipation. I thought for a long time that I was just a depressed bum :) ..... but my husband told me that the liturgical season of advent is actually really very somber. The melancholy carols are song BEFORE Christmas - and the jubilant songs are saved for Christmas day. That is significant to me .... a melancholy baby at heart :)

  9. Elizabeth, that is a beautiful song. I had just heard it on Renee's site and love it!! Wishing that next year’s journey is filled with blessings for you and your family! Have a lovely Christmas!

  10. Thank you, Elizabeth, the serene beauty of Fra Angelico is a gift. Ahhhh,Mary, what to make of her? "And seeing, they (the shepherds)understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart."

    "Pondering them in her heart", all the words being spoken by men about her child and the future.

    Peace and joy to you and your family, Elizabeth.

  11. I've always loved that painting. Great post ... have a wonderful holiday!

  12. Amazing story and beautiful background to it. I'm not surprised you had it published. Your enthusiasm captured me.

    Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family and a Happy New Year!

    Greetings from London.

  13. Have a peaceful, joyous, love-filled Christmas, Elizabeth! Much love to you and your family!

  14. And the same to you...blessed Christmas Eve and Day.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this lovely work of art. I'm grateful for your presence and friendship in my life. XO

  15. Is there a difference, do you think, between resignation and acceptance? I always think of acceptance in our cases as false, perhaps a form of false piety. Resignation seems a more appropriate term--but then, it also sounds a bit defeated. I don't want to be defeated by this. Is there a way to think about our situations without thinking of them as a battle?



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