The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
Let the Word, I pray, be to me,
not as a word spoken only to pass away,
but conceived and clothed in flesh, not in air,
that he may remain with us.
Let him be, not only heard with the ears,
but to be seen with the eyes,
touched by the hands and borne on the shoulders.
Let the Word be to me,
not as a word written and silent,
but incarnate and living.
That is, not traced with dead signs upon dead parchments
but living impressed in human form
upon my chaste womb;
not by the tracing of a pen of lifeless reed,
but by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Let it thus be to me,
as was never done to anyone before me,
not after me shall be done.
Bernard of Clairvaux,1090-1153, French abbot and Cistercian mystic
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.