Friday, 25 March 2011

The Annunciation

I had the experience of leading Morning Prayer for the feast of the Annunciation this morning and being the only male in the chapel.  Our reading was the account from Luke's Gospel of the announcement.  For the 1st time, I was struck by the difference it made hearing the message of the Angel given by a woman's voice.  In my blithe and thoughtless way, for years I had simply assumed that Gabriel was male!  Actually, it made more sense, given the cultural norms of the time, that Mary got the message from another woman (probably older) that her destiny was to be the Mother of the Messiah.  In a way, this painting of the Annunciation with a numinous messenger not in human form is (to me) more realistic that the traditional depiction of the angel as some sort of  humanoid thingy with wings.  It delivers us from the misinterpretation and confusion that abounds in so much Christian thinking when trying to picture the unimaginable reality of the Divine.  We human creatures think and imagine in pictures and then turn those pictures into unalterable"reality" which becomes "The Truth".  In fact, our idols are not the graven images of the Old Testament but the pictures of God we have in our minds.  The deadliest idolatry is internal, not external.  And they are the hardest idols to smash.  Lent is no bad time for a mental and spiritual clean out of our distorted images of God.

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