Tanner’s Annunciation

Today is the 153rd birthday of Henry Ossawa Tanner, the great American artist who painted my favorite depiction of the annunciation:

Mary is depicted as a young, humble Jewish girl encountering the Holy Spirit as light. Her expression is a mixture of fear, wisdom, understanding, and resignation. I don’t see joy in Tanner’s Mary: I see girl understanding that the gift she is about to accept comes with a terrible price. She knows that, indeed, a sword shall piece her heart, and she accepts anyway. That’s the moment Tanner captures here, and that’s the power of our Mother: that even in her youth, even knowing what lay ahead, she said yes. The acceptance of a gift this is also a burden–a cross, if you will–is what defines the Christian story, and it has its birth in this very moment.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • will

    I would not be so quick to call Mary our mother . For there is no mother of the church. Only the Father of the church which is Christ.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    There’s a lot of theological error packed into that sentence. Let’s unpack it a bit.

    “Father” is a very specific word in trinitarian theology. The Father is the Father and Christ is Christ. They are distinct in origin, mission, and relation. Christ is not the “Father” of the Church. He is the Church. It is His body and we are his members. As Christ has a mother, so do we as those members and as Christians: Mary, mother of God, mother of the Church, and mother of every Christian. “Mary Mother of the Church” has been one of her titles from the earliest days.

    Mary is our mother.

  • http://www.theleenmachine.blogspot.com KML

    Gorgeous. And I love the messy humanity of the rumpled bedsheets and rug.

    Will, check out “Hail, Holy Queen” by Scott Hahn for some perspectives on your statement.


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