Mary’s YES: A painting, and a poem


for March 25th Feast of the Annunciation

How do you picture in your mind Gabriel’s visit to Mary?

Several members of St Chrysostom’s Church have said how much they appreciate the African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner’s painting of the Annunciation (1898). Tanner visited the Holy Land and influenced by what he saw, he created this unconventional painting of the messenger of God  announcing to Mary that she will be the mother of the Son of God. Our Lady is depicted as an adolescent dressed in crumpled Middle Eastern peasant clothing. Gabriel appears only as a shaft of light. (The Philadelphia Museum of Art has this painting in its collection and has prepared a good study guide, intended for young people, but suitable for all here. )

Poets have depicted the Annunciation in many ways too. The English born American poet Denise Levertov’s Annunciation is a moving reflection on Mary’s ‘Yes’ to God. The poem (which can be read in full here) concludes with the striking words:

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.

Consent,  courage unparalleled,

opened her utterly.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
This entry was posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Art, Catholic, Christianity, Prayer, Spirituality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mary’s YES: A painting, and a poem

  1. thank you for the reflection, and for the view of an astounding work of art.

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