A Holy Week Annunciation

So once again we come to Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter. To my regret, I’ve been lazy about my spiritual practice this year during Lent—too many commitments, not enough discipline, too many distractions. But the wonderful thing about the church year is that these holy days come round once again, even when we’ve done little to prepare for them. For after all, grace comes not because we’ve earned it, but because it’s the job of grace to flow where it is needed.

Installation of Martin Varo's Annunciation (image courtesy of Martin Varo)
Today I want to share with you a poem written by a friend of mine, Mike Norton of Traverse City, Michigan. I know him as a travel writing colleague, so I was surprised to learn that Mike is also an accomplished poet. In fact, not long ago Mike’s poem “St. Anne” won the grand prize in a poetry contest held to honor the installation of a major new sculpture at Ave Maria Oratory in Florida. His award-winning poem is part of an anthology, The Annunciation in Poetry and Sculpture, which is published by the Ave Maria Foundation for the Arts (for a copy, call the foundation at 239-352-9902).

The sculpture itself was created by Romanian artist Martin Varo, who used Carrara marble to create an image of the moment when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear the son of God. After you read Mike’s lovely poem, you’ll see why it’s not inappropriate to feature it during Holy Week.

                       ST. ANNE

It must have been God’s mercy made me sleep

So deep I never heard that angel walk

Into my daughter’s room. Most times, I keep

As clear an eye and ear as any hawk

On what is mine. But yes, I slept that night

And so I missed it all: the pulsing roar

Of those gigantic wings, the sea of light

Surging around the edges of the door,

The awful beauty of that shining face,

Those words, more awful still: Hail, full of grace.

I can’t imagine what I might have said

If I’d been in that room. A mother’s love

So often teeters on the brink of dread;  

We wish our children safe and snug above

All other things, and fearing, come to doubt

God’s goodness or the power of His grace.

In my alarm, I might have blurted out:

“Go take your blessing to some other place,

Some other woman’s daughter. Let her part

Be small — this gift of yours will break her heart.”

So it was mercy, and what’s done is done.

I see her in the courtyard now, the child

Asleep upon her lap. I watch her run

Her fingers through those sunlit curls and smile,

And would not wish away a thing so sweet.

But something moves here, dark as thundercloud:

Those purple shadows on his hands and feet,

The distant growl as of an angry crowd,

Demanding bread and miracles. And blood:

Three sticks stuck on a hillside in the mud.

Does Mary see them? Oh, I think she knows,

Has always known, and when she said, “Behold

The Lord’s handmaiden,” well, then, I suppose

She knew what she was doing. I’ve grown old

Inside and out, my faith a fretful thing,

While she for all her calm burns like a flame.

She knows the worth of him she’s carrying

And Who he is, and whence and why he came.   

Each blow they give him, she will feel it twice…

But then, she knows. She knows. It must suffice.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Marian

    I am awed that the poet so well comprehends the feelings of a mother. Thank-you, Mike, and Holy Rover.

  • Marian

    I am awed that the poet so well comprehends the feelings of a mother. Thank-you, Mike, and Holy Rover.

  • Marian

    Additional thoughts: aside from the wonderful exposure to art, music, world cultures, books, spirituality, and travel you bring to your readers, you also model humanness. How refreshing that you could tell us you fell short of your Lenten-practices! A Presbyterian minister once told me that her definition of sin is “missing the mark.” I was happy to be reminded of that from your opening paragraph.

  • Marian

    Additional thoughts: aside from the wonderful exposure to art, music, world cultures, books, spirituality, and travel you bring to your readers, you also model humanness. How refreshing that you could tell us you fell short of your Lenten-practices! A Presbyterian minister once told me that her definition of sin is “missing the mark.” I was happy to be reminded of that from your opening paragraph.

  • Darcy

    This is an amazing poem. I’ve read it again and again, and each time a new layer emerges. This is a Lenten gift, to meditate on someone’s mothering, other than my own. Such a strong desire to protect and I wrestle with my inabilities but now I have St. Anne to ponder. Thank you, Holy Rover!

  • Darcy

    This is an amazing poem. I’ve read it again and again, and each time a new layer emerges. This is a Lenten gift, to meditate on someone’s mothering, other than my own. Such a strong desire to protect and I wrestle with my inabilities but now I have St. Anne to ponder. Thank you, Holy Rover!

  • Chris

    oh my oh my oh my.

  • Chris

    oh my oh my oh my.

  • Jennifer Scoggin

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful poem. The second stanza captures something I’ve been struggling with for decades!

    And thank you, too, for your blog!

  • Jennifer Scoggin

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful poem. The second stanza captures something I’ve been struggling with for decades!

    And thank you, too, for your blog!

  • Anne Tanner

    We do demand bread and miracles, don’t we? Thank you for this, Lori.

  • Anne Tanner

    We do demand bread and miracles, don’t we? Thank you for this, Lori.