The Windows of St. John’s – The Annunciation
My home church, St. John the Evangelist in Jackson, Michigan, is filled with beautiful stained glass windows. I’ve long admired them and the way they tell the story of Jesus through art. And so I’ve decided to share them with you, starting with the ones that depict the five joyful mysteries of the rosary which are so appropriate for Advent and Christmas.
Jesus’ life begins in a quiet room in a traditional Jewish home. The stained glass window is full of rich details, including candles behind Mary’s head and flowers around the edges. Gabriel appears with a dove above him, depicting God’s spirit present in the room. A ray of light shines from the dove to Mary as Mary and Gabriel dialogue and Mary accepts God’s request.
So much has been said and can be said about this scene. Mary, a young girl, joyfully accepts God’s will. “Let it be done to me according to your word,” she replies. This sounds passive in translation, but the original Greek verb indicates a joyful wishing, even desiring, on the part of Mary. She doesn’t just passively accept God’s will, but actively desires it. It could be said that only someone as young as Mary could accept so freely, so joyfully. She doesn’t have enough experience to realize what this could mean, how drastically it would change her life. Someone older may have asked for time to think it over, count the cost, before agreeing. But Mary didn’t hesitate.
The words of the angel caused Mary to be afraid at first. The angel not only called her full of grace, but he said “The Lord is with you.” The phrase “The Lord be with you,” which we let slip so easily off of our tongues now, was only used in the Old Testament in the context of a commission by God. “Such a divine calling generally entailed great sacrifices and challenged people to step out of their comfort zones and put their trust in God like never before,” Edward Sri says in The Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture. Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon and David were all told that God would be with them when they were commissioned to serve God’s people. So Mary knew something was up.
“With these words Mary probably realizes that a lot is being asked of her. She may not know clearly all the challenges that lie ahead, but the words certainly imply that God has a formidable task in store for her. At the same time, the greeting tells her that she will not have to face these difficulties alone. God will give her the one thing she needs most: the assurance that he will be with her.” (Sri, The Dawn of the Messiah)
We don’t know what happened after the angel left. It is easy to say yes when in the midst of a religious experience. Far harder to live out the consequences of that yes. Did she wonder – Was I crazy? Did I imagine this? Who am I to be so blessed by God? And yet, as the baby grew in her womb, it was a constant reminder of the truth of her experience.
God was with her, growing inside her. God would continue to be with her through her life, just as God is with each of us. Mary, in her youth and simplicity said, “Yes,” and that yes has made all of the difference in this world.
Have you said yes to God lately?
This post is part of a series on the stained glass windows of St. John the Evangelist Church. click here to follow blog