A young woman, 14 years old, in worn clothing and barefoot. Her body posture shows some hesitancy, some fear. And yet, her face shows a quiet confidence and beauty.
This image is the “Annunciation” painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner. It is his reflection on what he thought this special event in salvation history looked like, and yet, it might be different from what we always picture it as.
Often, we can see Mary as a supernatural being, unlike the rest of us, and yet, in this piece, she looks so very human. She is young, definitely about the age that is often attributed to her according to tradition. She is often a far distant being to many of us, one who can be hard to relate to. And most especially, one we can rarely see ourselves striving after.
And yet, this painting, this piece of sacred art, causes us to pause, ponder, and reflect. Mary does seem so approachable. She looks afraid, and we have been there too. She is confronted with a call that has many doubts and questions. Have we not experienced the same? The thoughts come to her…“How can this be?” and yet, she is reassured, “ Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30-34). How many times does God do this in our lives?
In this moment, Mary is radiant in who she really is. She is confronted with a call from God, but even before that, she is a daughter of the Father. She is precious and valuable, and is receptive to receive that gift from God. This image reflects to us the value and beauty of womanhood, to be created in God’s image and likeness as a woman, and like Mary, to share that gift with the world.
And Mary did share that gift, and the result was that she carried and bore God made Man through the Incarnation. Likewise, we can receive God’s love and bear Him to the world through our particular uniqueness.
This image tells us a story. It gives us something to pray on and ponder in light of our own lives. Can I receive the gift that I am like Mary radiates in this image? Do I see the beauty in such open receptivity to the Lord?
We encourage you today, and throughout the week to gaze upon this image and to take it to prayer. What is striking you about this image? Ask the Lord to reveal why this is so and how it applies to your own life and the living out your feminine gifts. In this month of Our Mother, may we ponder and reflect on the ways that we can live out our own “feminine genius”, as she did at the Annunciation. Mother Mary, pray for us!
(The image of the Annunciation is found at the website: