Advent Reflection #7: “The Annunciatory Angel” by Luci Shaw

The Annunciatory Angel (detail of Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation)

The androgynous visitor is dressed

in a rosy fabric thick as pigment, the tunic

blown back by turbulence to expose its lining,

a blue crescent under the right arm.  Angels

are said to be genderless, so there’s a certain

enigma.  A wing, the clue to otherness,

arcs in golden space.  We are

at several removes from the reality, reading

between the lines, speculation on Angelico’s

speculation.  How does an angel look?  We are not

Daniel or Zechariah; we have not been shown.

This rendering suggests not celestial power and radiance

but a weight of apprehension; what must be announced

will not be entirely easy news.

Wind is part of the picture, gusts

whipping the robes and body along a stretch

of baroque carpet.  Gabriel seems to be

advancing up an incline, laboring with

the imperative of message, hair flattened against scalp,

features tense, hands folded tight to the chest,

agitation or awe–it is hard to tell.  We can’t see

the heart hammering in the unearthly body,

but the announcement, the cracking open of a space

that encircles earth and heaven, must weigh

like a gold boulder in the belly.

How might it feel (if an archangel has feelings) to bear

this news?  Perhaps as confounded as the girl, there

in the corner?  We worry that she might be faint.

Weep.  Turn away, perplexed and fearful

about opening herself.  Refuse to let the wind

fill her, to buffet its nine-month seed into her earth.

She is so small and intact.  Turmoil will wrench her.

She might say no.

(From Luci Shaw’s Accompanied by Angels:  Poems of the Incarnation)

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