Friday, December 09, 2005

The Annunciation


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Sandro Botticelli


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Henry Ossawa Tanner

Interestingly enough, the second painting is by an African American. Honestly, I think it is much more likely to reflect reality.


Yesterday we had our most controversial mass of the year - The mass for the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. I think the only ones present who believe in that particular doctrine are the visiting priest who does the mass, the four nuns who work at our school the handful of oldschool Catholics who raise a ruckus if we don't have the mass. Fr. Mike refuses to do it, but being that our school is Catholic, we have a visiting priest come in every year and do it. Our staff for the most part tries to emphasize the fact that Mary said yes to God and changed the world.

I work with two nuns who keep a watchful eye on me, especially when saying the Hail Mary. I refuse to say it. I'm not trying to be conspicuous about it, but its kind of hard not to be when people are staring at you!
I never would have survived Catholic school growing up. They would have thrown me in the dungeon or burned me at the stake.
Regardless, the annunciation has been a popular theme throughout art history. I thought a comparison of two would be interesting.

16 comments:

H. Stallard said...

I don't know very much about Catholics. Could you please explain about the Hail Mary and why you don't say it.

Constantine said...

I agree wholeheartedly that the latter painting is much more likely to reflect reality. Why is it "interesting" that it was painted by an African American?

So why don't you say the "Hail Mary?" The first half of the prayer comes directly from scripture as you know and the second is a request to a member (the Mother of God no less) of the “church triumphant” to pray for us. I'm just curious.

I know how you feel about watchful eyes. When I was in middle school I went to a private "evangelical" Protestant school for about a year and a half. They were in a constant state of worry about me being a RC. They didn't like that my bible had an "extra 7 books” in it that were of course “unbiblical—i.e. Tobit.” They didn't like my picture of Christ that I kept in my cubical showing Him on the Via Delorosa (of course, I’m willing to bet these same folks love Mel’s depiction of the “Stations of the Cross” in his film “The Passion.”) Basically, in their minds I was a member of the Whore of Babylon and they, of course, were the truly saved. I know you've read Portofino. I can say that Calvin's characterization of the ilk that I too experienced as a kid is spot on.

madcapmum said...

I'm curious too!

I went to Catholic school in high school, and honestly, it was every bit as secular as the public school next door, but we said prayers at school functions, and occasionally went to Mass. My "real" Catholicism came later.

In fact, I can get into the Hail Mary more than I can the Apostles Creed at this point. So I'm really curious where you're coming from on this issue.

voixdange said...

I hope i didn't offend anyone.

I don't pray to anyone but the Father in the name of Jesus. To me Hail Mary is simply Old English for "Hello Mary" a start to a conversation with someone.I don't have my Bible with me at the moment, but wasn't it a direct quote from Elizabeth who was speaking directly to Mary at the time? I don't beleive that Mary is omnipresent and can or would even want to hear my prayers. She played her earthly role and did it well while here on earth. I reverence her and what she did, but at the same time I feel that to attribute extraordinary divine powers to her diminishes what she did and what God did through her and also makes us feel as if we have an excuse not to live up to it in our own walk.

Dr. Mike Kear said...

This is quite interesting to me.

As a Protestant, I have always thought that we undervalued the role and person of Mary. I am one Protestant who knows the Hail Mary by heart (mostly because of my former job as a funeral home chaplain - I got to here it many, many times at Catholic funerals). I personally don't have anything against the Hail Mary if it is used in the same way as my asking a fellow believer to pray for me.

Of course, as a Protestant, I have great difficulty with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (as well as the Assumption of Mary). But I can see her as the Mother of the Church, at least allegorically, in certain Scriptures (Song of Solomon 6:9-10, for example).

Last night I watched a program on EWTN about Mary as Co-redemtrix and Mediatrix. How do you feel about those ideas?

Dr. Mike Kear said...

PS: Forgive my terrible spelling in the post above. I really should proofread. MK

Constantine said...

Offended? Me? No way Mi Amiga.

madcapmum said...

Offense? Goodness, you'd have to try a lot harder than that!

voixdange said...

Hey everyone! thanks for your responses. I gave a quick response for why I don't say the Hail Mary, because I was on my break at work,
but to respond to a few other questions:

C -
do you think that you could respond to h. stallard's question for me, as I'm sure you could give a much better definition of what the Hail Mary actually is? Also I thought it was interesting that the second painting was done by an African American for several reasons. First of all it was done in 1898. When I first saw the painting I though it was a very recent and modern protrayal of the annunciation and that was the reason for the more realistic approach to the setting. The more European paintings are highly stylized and do not reflect Mary's humble working class circumstances. I can only wonder if it is Tanner's experience as an African American that is reflected in his desire to portray Mary and the annunciation in a more realistic light.

Dr. Kear - I am really not familliar with those ideas. But this may answer your question. I beleive that Mary did what we are all called to do, birth Christ into the world. I beleive that she is the ultimate testimony of what God can do with a willing spirit and a heart that says yes.I don't beleive that she, nor her birth nor death were any more or less human than anyone elses.

Also, just to goad you for the fun of it C. Mary was in the upper room. she spoke in tongues... tee hee!

Constantine said...

I just returned from Narnia--the movie that is. Grin. There were moments when the portrayal of Aslan was...well...I'm not sure how to say it. Maybe the best description would be to borrow a phrase from the momentous Protestant theologian Karl Barth, who when speaking of Divinity often spoke in terms of the nature of God being "wholly other." Anyway…

Indeed Mi Amiga, I understand now your awe regarding Tanner's art. The context you provided illuminates the piece even more than it already is. Thanks for the clarity. I appreciate it.

The Hail Mary. What to say? Where to begin? I suppose as good a place to start as any other would be to call upon the notion or idea of the "communion of Saints (fairly well know creedal phrase in Christianity). Long story short: the people of God in the here and now, on earth if you will, are members of the body of Christ and are often referred to in some circles as the "Church militant." Basically, we are still engaged in battle where the outcome may be uncertain (or at least in the minds of some). But as the well known phrase from the Lord's Prayer says, "on earth as it is in heaven," there is also the idea that the people of God that have passed through the veil from this world into the next make up the "Church triumphant." In some ways they might be considered more alive that we are in the here and now. Given this context, it's not hard to imagine or that great a stretch of credulity to suppose that elder brothers and sisters in Christ beyond the boundaries of time and space might be called upon for help. Saying the "Hail Mary" is but an extension of what "communion of Saints" means. If I could ask Angevoix to pray for me, why couldn't I ask another member of the greater family of God at large, Mary etc., to pray for me too or to lend a helping hand? Hence the words, “holy Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos), pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death” don’t sound all that radical after all (unless the Bible is your sole and final authority).

If I recall correctly, Angevoix has some Celtic roots and in that tradition there is the idea of "thin places," where the divide between this world and the world beyond time and space becomes so thin that the boarders of each become mixed if you will. I would say that this "experience" is akin to the "communion of Saints." In the language or verbiage of mysticism the actions of the "Church triumphant" and the "Church militant" impress upon one another. I hope, and even suspect, that prayers move forward and backward through time and space, or back and forth across the veil, and their impact can be real. In some fashion, this speaks to why some RCs pray for the dead.

In the Protestant world, things are more cut and dried and lines in the sand more readily drawn. Not so in the RC world, or at least not as much. For example, the Eucharistic celebration, if and when Protestants have one at all, it is but a mere memorial for many of them (not all of course). But for RCs (I'm generalizing) it is the pinnacle of a mystical union (Paschal Mystery). Of course, allowing for meaning beyond sheer logic and words can be a double-edged sword. The RC tradition is given to wild speculation at times. As an example, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which basically asserts that through the grace of God Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin (that bad ol’ naughty behavior supposedly inherited by us all from our proverbial spiritual parents—Adam and Eve). From the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception it’s easy to see why some in Rome (maximalist vs. minimalist) infer or extrapolate the sadly mistaken (in my estimation anyway) ideas that Dr. Kear alluded to, namely that Mary is Co-Redemtrix and/or Mediatrix. Not all is well in Rome, but as a wise pedestrian axiom informs us, in so many words, at least more polite ones, “everybody has a behind and by definition they all stink,” if you catch my drift.

I would say that the crux of the problem is the Western definition of Original Sin. But that’s another conversation and I’m afraid I’ve already made the simple request of Angevoix clear as mud. Sorry.

Btw Mi Amiga, good jab with the Upper Room and speaking in tongues reference. :)

voixdange said...

"there is the idea of "thin places," where the divide between this world and the world beyond time and space becomes so thin that the boarders of each become mixed if you will."

I feel this during worship, at times very intensely.

Constantine said...

Given what I know of you I wouldn't doubt it a bit. I think that's beautiful.

voixdange said...

Now I can say I just returned from Narnia!!!!!

Wow!!! It did not disapoint!

Constantine said...

How did you react at the gut level to the depiction of Aslan?

I was pleasantly surprised how faithful for the most part the film was to the book. I suspect it has something to do with Lewis' stepson being involved in the production.

He's not a tame Lion. That's for sure!! But as Lucy says, "He's good."

voixdange said...

I was very moved when it showed Aslan walking toward his execution in place of Edmund. Even more than the Passion of Christ, it helped me to connect and with what Christ did for me.

Dan Trabue said...

"I beleive that Mary did what we are all called to do, birth Christ into the world."

BEAUTIFUL!!