If you’re looking for an Advent meditation, look no further than the poem “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov. IT. IS. FANTASTIC.
It presents an exploration of the moment between when Gabriel asked Mary to be the Mother of God and her saying yes to God’s plan. It is a great meditation for Advent and there are some beautiful phrases to explore. First, read it below:
“No one mentions courage.”
We always think of the story of the Annunciation/Nativity as a joyous one, but we forget that Mary was an unmarried woman who was with child. This could have been grounds for her being stoned to death. Let us not forget the risk Mary took. In the penultimate line of the poem, Levertov refers to Mary’s bravery as “courage unparalleled.” She makes the claim that no one has been more courageous than Mary was when she said yes to being the Mother of God.
Shortly after the poem begins, Levertov breaks from describing Mary. “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?” she asks. She sets the scene of the Annunciation, and then she moves to our lives. This serves as a reminder that we too must consent to God’s will for our lives.
“but who was God.”
How beautiful it is that this line is its own stanza! Levertov goes from describing how the child Mary will bear will have the same needs all babies have, and then shifts abruptly to a fragment of a sentence that shatters human expectations of what a baby is. The baby in question is God.
“A breath unbreathed, / Spirit, / suspended, / waiting.”
Go back and read this in the poem and look at the spacing here. The spacing in this poem by Levertov is incredible because it builds the anticipation of this moment–”the minute no one speaks of.”
Levertov uses the word “consent” three times in this poem. “The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent,” she writes the first time she uses this word. This is a reminder that Mary had free will. She exercised her free will to accept God’s plan, despite it being “a destiny more momentous than any in all of Time,” as Levertov describes it.
The second time Levertov uses the word “consent,” she says “consent illumined” Mary. Her freely given yes made her shine with the greatness of God. Saint Eugène de Mazenod said the following of Mary: “God’s own glory is enhanced in Mary.”
Saint Eugène also said of Mary: “[Mary] is the dawn of our redemption, the ineffable moment when the promises began to be fulfilled.”
The third time Levertov uses the word “consent,” she states that “consent…opened her utterly.” This is a reminder that Mary’s yes opened her up to sorrow, for the Word became flesh to die for our sins.
Moreover, Levertov emphasizes that Mary knew what she was getting herself into. she states Mary perceived “instantly the astounding ministry she was offered.” To answer the famous Christmas song: Yes, Mary did know what she was doing, and she said yes anyway.
Additionally, Levertov points out “the minute no one speaks of / when she could still refuse.” Mary had free will. She could have said no, but she exercised her free will to consent to God’s plan.
What are your favorite phrases and lines in this poem? Let us know in the comments!