Pondering and Praying with the Annunciation
What feelings arise in my heart as I sit with this painting of the Annunciation? Where are my eyes drawn and where do they remain?
What aspects of the painting stir my heart as I enter this Advent season at a time when our country’s deep divisions cry out for the healing presence of unioning love?
What may God be saying to me as I contemplate the inner space Mary has made available for God’s Word to take flesh?
About the Artist
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the son of a former slave and his mother was a runaway slave. The arc of his career was marked by racial discrimination and the barriers it put in his path. A deep spirituality and regard for the human dignity of his subjects were fostered by his father’s call to minister as a pastor. Tanner first studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. However, he resolved, “I could not fight prejudice and paint,” and went to Paris to study. His work drew acclaim and he was offered a trip to the Holy Land. The impact of this trip can be seen in his depiction of Mary as a young Jewish peasant woman in simple Near Eastern garb. In a departure from other portrayals of Mary, there is no halo encircling her head. Tanner’s work is celebrated today for its ability to draw us deeply into attention and reflection. As he said in a 1924 interview in The New York Times, “My effort has been not only to put the Biblical incident in the original setting but at the same time to give the human touch which makes the whole world kin and which-ever remains the same.”
Alexia, I. H. (2012). Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, 79(2), 238–248, Hynes, J. (1991, 03). Henry Ossawa Tanner: Afro-American Painter. USA Today, 119, 70.
May God bless us with eyes open to see as God sees. May we open our beings to the inner invitations and personal transformation. May we have eyes open to the world, the misery that exists and the Spirit that inspires. May God bless us with ears attentive to the suffering and joy of the world and of our companions in ministry. May God bless us with a holy restlessness, searching… in order to understand, to divine what God and the dear neighbor await from us. May God bless us with the grace to reflect in our face continual joy of spirit. Amen.
November 29, 2020