“Aren’t there annunciations/ of one sort or another/ in most lives?”
Denise Levertov poses the question in her powerful poem “Annunciation.” Drawing on her imagination, her own life, and what she saw in others, Levertov fleshes out Luke’s gospel scene in vivid color.
Gabriel’s announcement did not leave Mary without questions or concerns. The angel’s proposal would change Mary’s life, all life, for all time. Yet, even in her uncertainty, Mary accepted God’s invitation with grace, courtesy. She took the angel’s words to ponder in her inmost being.
Ultimately, Mary said yes. Denise Levertov writes that Mary’s response made her the “bravest of all humans.” Her consent “lit up the room.”
Sure, there were plenty of other responses Mary might have made—she was human and therefore free. So are we. She could have turned away saying, “I’m not qualified,” “I’m not worthy,” or “I’m afraid.” “I’m too young” or “too old.” Or, as Levertov says, she could have “gritted her teeth” and unwillingly lived out “a great destiny,” all the while raging within or feeling “coerced.”
This morning I stood at a graveside as we buried a close friend’s mother. It was a hard place to be in this “merry” season, but also an invitation to fuller life and love. Tonight, a young couple I didn’t know invited me to look closely at their five-week old baby. I marveled at the baby’s peaceful sleep in a crowded restaurant, at her tiny fingers, her young parents’ pride. I am grateful to have all those images fresh and alive as I contemplate the Annunciation passage, Mary’s response, and how Christ comes into the world.
In what ways has God drawn and invited you?
—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.