Word For Today for The Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 2021

Written by on 25/03/2021

Word For Today for The Feast of the Annunciation

At the Feast of the Annunciation, we commemorate the visit of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and the ‘yes’ that Mary gave which made salvation possible.

We all can discover in different ways the wonder and importance of the Virgin Mary to the work of the Lord. Not all of us have had the experience of a home in which devotion is given to Mary. The following poem by Denise Levertov helped me as a Protestant to understand Mary’s significance. Levertov’s poem was a poem for my journey, and I hope that it can also inspire and help you.

Levertov was born in England in October 1923 in Ilford, Essex. Her father, Paul, was a Russian Hasidic Jew who had emigrated to England and, after converting to Christianity, became an Anglican vicar. Her Mother, Beatrice, came from a small Welsh mining village. They were not only an interesting cultural mix, they also retained the sensitivity of outsiders because they were a humanitarian family which campaigned regularly for the outsider and the oppressed, whether against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia or on behalf of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

Levertov was seventeen in 1940 when her first poems were published. During the Blitz, she worked in London as a nurse and after the war she married an American writer, Mitchell Goodman, and then moved to the States.

Religion was a major theme in much of her poetry which trace her journey from an early agnosticism to Christianity. She described her journey into faith as ‘a movement incorporating much doubt and questioning as well as affirmation.’ In 1984 she became a Christian and in 1989, Levertov formally entered the Catholic Church. She died in December 1997.

Levertov’s poem ‘Annunciation’ allows us to view this familiar scene with a fresh appreciation for Mary’s fiat. In Levertov’s poem Mary was free/ to accept or to refuse, choice/ integral to humanness. And, as Levertov states: God waited for her response. Mary understood the drama she found herself in and knew the aching beauty of the Lord’s promises about redemption. Mary understood the glory and the sorrow in the advent of the promised Christ and the significance of the request and the blessing that would follow. That the angel’s words were a request for her: to contain/ in slender vase of being,/ the sum of power–/in narrow flesh,/the sum of light. The poem includes the reader and our choices, not as momentous but potentially for each of us significant. As you read this do keep in mind one of the famous paintings of the Annunciation and you can see here Fra Angelico’s fifteen century painting of the Annunciation.

Annunciation by Denise Levertov

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Fr Sam Randall

To read Denise Levertov’s full poem – click here.

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