By Denise Levertov
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece,
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered: to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –but who was God.
The Annunciation by Henry Owassa Tanner – one of my favorites found here. (Apparently their website says she is not on exhibit right now.)
I remember rounding the corner in one of the exhibits and seeing her full size and taking my breath in sharp. The question is, since God has been placed within me through the power of the Holy Spirit, what has He asked me to birth? Will I say yes? This book asks that same question of each piece of art we create…profoundly.