Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Annunciation

Tomorrow's the solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her she'd conceive the Son of God. Naturally it's nine months before Christmas. There's a parish a few blocks from my house named Annunciation; maybe I should pay it a visit!

Okay, check out this painting of the Annunciation and tell me: how can an artist who's clearly very accomplished in other ways get perspective so wrong?

Psalm 45 is in the Office for tomorrow. I love that one. Not until I was Catholic did I hear the interpretation that now seems obvious to me: that the first half foreshadows the Messiah and the second half foreshadows Mary. Imagine St. Gabriel speaking it to her.

Psalm 45

My heart cries out on a joyful theme:
I will tell my poem to the king,
my tongue like the pen of the swiftest scribe.

You have been given more than human beauty,
and grace is poured out upon your lips,
so that God has blessed you for ever.

Strap your sword to your side, mighty one,
in all your greatness and splendour.
In your splendour go forth, mount your chariot,
on behalf of truth, kindness and justice.
Let your right hand show your marvels,
let your arrows be sharp against the hearts of the king’s enemies
– the peoples will fall before you.

Your throne is firm, O God, from age to age,
your royal sceptre is a sceptre of justice.
You love uprightness, hate injustice
– for God, your God has anointed you
with the oil of gladness, above all your companions.

Myrrh and aloes and cassia anoint your garments.
From ivory palaces the sound of harps delights you.
In your retinue go the daughters of kings.
At your right hand, the queen is adorned with gold of Ophir.

Listen, my daughter, and understand;
turn your ears to what I have to say.
Forget your people, forget your father’s house,
and the king will desire you for your beauty.
He is your lord, so worship him.
The daughters of Tyre will bring you gifts;
the richest of your subjects will beg you to look on them.

How great is the king’s daughter, within the palace!
She is clothed in woven gold.
She will be taken to the king in coloured garments,
her maidens will escort her to your presence.
In gladness and rejoicing they are brought
and led to the house of the king.

Instead of your fathers you will have sons:
you will make them rulers over all the world.
I will remember your name
from generation to generation.
And so your people will do you honour
for ever and for ever.


Cathy said...

We are in New York City for spring break, and today we went to The Cloisters (a medieval art museum which is part of the Metropolitan). We walked into one of the galleries and there was *this* painting (the Merode altarpiece). I had forgotten it was at The Cloisters, and it was funny to be there on the Feast of the Annunciation and run into this painting after seeing it on your blog the other day.

Rachel Gray said...

Oh, cool! I've never heard of The Cloisters but now I'd certainly like to go. It's quite striking to me when I walk into museums and suddenly see art pieces I'm really familiar with-- like the purple irises by Van Gogh, which I have a poster of and see at the Getty in L.A.