Lo! faithful Virgin

Madonna and Child possibly 1230s

Of solemnly hieratic beauty, this is one of only two works that can be confidently assigned to Berlinghiero, the leading painter in the Tuscan city of Lucca. It follows the Byzantine type known as the Hodegetria (“She who shows the way”), familiar from icons that arrived in Italy following the fall of Constantinople in 1204. The Madonna points to Jesus as the way to Salvation; dressed like an ancient philosopher, he holds a scroll. One scholar has noted: “Berlinghiero’s work operates with nuances . . . the language of gestures, with their gentle flow and their subtle meaning on both human and theological levels.”

As part of my own Advent customs I turn to John Donne’s Divine Poems and his series of 7 sonnets written sometime close to 1650. His second in this series is entitled Annunciation.

Amidst all the hurrying of this season this poem is an invitation to pause and ponder. Do take time to read and reread, read it again and again allowing the words to penetrate your soul and spark your imagination. As we move closer to Christmas I will be using the third in the series and will return to the others in January and then at Easter. Take the last three lines of this sonnet and gently hold them in your hands and feel the weight and width along with the gravity and the grace of these life giving words.

Annunciation  John Donne
2. Salvation to all that will is nigh;

That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb.

Prayer:
O Holy God
in this season of Advent
we wait, we watch, and we wonder.
Words themselves are not bendy enough
to say what cannot be said.
We struggle to comprehend,
we struggle to embrace this truth.
We look to Mary, and cannot comprehend her predicament,
We look to Mary, and marvel at her “Yes”.
Might we have the courage and the commitment
to respond to God with our own “Yes”
and so
give
birth
to
Your light,
Your love,
Your grace,
Your hope,
Your comfort,
in the here and now.
So be it God. Amen.

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