Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
(Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38)
Jerome Miller, a Catholic theologian, wrote a reflection on the Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s depiction of the Annunciation. According to Miller, the artist, like any exegete, has much to teach us about this critical moment in the history of salvation.
Miller begins his study by noting how the action of the painting takes places on a floor of perfectly arranged rectangles. He says these figures represent lives that are dominated by order which brings meaning and gives a platform for action. Then Miller notes how the angel appears as an eruption of grace into Mary’s well-ordered life. In the painting the angel’s hand makes a gesture of command: she is to give birth to the Son of God who will bring peace to earth. The hand is open and not pointing directly to Mary but giving her permission to refuse the mandate. Mary, however, is pictured as all receptivity. Her body curves in what can be seen as a bow of compliance. Her hands are open like Jesus’ on the cross. Their positioning indicates awareness that her decision will cause her suffering.
All of us are so approached in life with a proposition of divine grace. We are called out of the ordinariness of making a living to sacrifice ourselves for others. Of course, our consent to grace will make us vulnerable to suffering. But we should not shrink from the mission. We like Mary are nothing greater, but nothing less either, than servants of the Lord.