Friday, March 20, 2015

Aren't There Annunciations of One Sort or Another in Most Lives?

(Tanner, The Annunciation)


by Denise Levertov

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’ 
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc 

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, 
almost always a lectern, a book; always the tall lily. 

Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings, 
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering, 
whom she acknowledges, a guest. 
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions 

The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. 

God waited. 

She was free 
to accept or to refuse, choice 
integral to humanness. 


Aren’t there annunciations 
of one sort or another 
in most lives? 

Some unwillingly undertake great destinies, 
enact them in sullen pride, 

More often those moments 
when roads of light and storm 
open from darkness in a man or woman, 
are turned away from 
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair 
and with relief. 
Ordinary lives continue. 

God does not smite them. 
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes. 


She had been a child who played, ate, slept 
like any other child–but unlike others, 
wept only for pity, laughed 
in joy not triumph. 
Compassion and intelligence 
fused in her, indivisible. 

Called to a destiny more momentous 
than any in all of Time, 
she did not quail, 
only asked a simple, ‘How can this be?’ 
and gravely, courteously, 
took to heart the angel’s reply, 
the astounding ministry she was offered: 

to bear in her womb 
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry 
in hidden, finite inwardness, 
nine months of Eternity; to contain 
in slender vase of being, 
the sum of power– 
in narrow flesh, 
the sum of light. 

Then bring to birth, 
push out into air, a Man-child 
needing, like any other, 
milk and love– 

but who was God. 

This was the moment no one speaks of, 
when she could still refuse. 

A breath unbreathed, 


She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’ 
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’ 
She did not submit with gritted teeth, 

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. 

Learn more about Deinse Levertov:

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