A Touch of Sorrow in Joy

I saw this picture of the Annunciation the other day, and my jaw dropped. Had I not already picked all the gorgeous pictures in my upcoming book about the Joyful Mysteries, I would be tempted to put this one in as well! Isn’t it beautiful?!

The Annunciation, by Benvenuto Tisi, c. 1528. Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy.

First of all, one of the amusing things about this picture is that there’s a cat in it! There are many religious pictures that have dogs interacting with the people, but not so many cats hanging around. Furthermore! The cat is colored like mine! Though my cat is a Maine Coon mix, which is a very American-looking cat, versus this one in the ar that looks more European!

Still! One of the most jaw-dropping things about this painting is that the whole Holy Trinity is depicted here! As the angel Gabriel comes and greets her as she is praying, bringing lilies as he does so, the heavens open and God, the Father, appears out of the sky. He appears to be sending the dove that represents the Holy Spirit. Both of these Persons frequently appear in pictures of the Annunciation, so neither of their appearances are out-of-the-ordinary.

But, look! Out of the heavens comes an angel which is carrying the cross of Jesus, along with His crown of thorns! So, even though in this scene, He is present within Mary, the angel still reminds us that Jesus, only just conceived in the womb of Mary, will grow into a man and become the sacrifice which will set us free. And by carrying these two things — the crown of thorns and the cross — it reminds us that, even in the middle of this joyful scene, the heart of Mary will be sorely tested as she will be there for that brutal death.

It’s an especially poignant scene for me since I’m pregnant. Of course, being pregnant, there is a lot of hope for the future. After all, don’t I carry a little part of the future in the daughter that is in my womb, as well my other two children which God has blessed me? But, at the same time, I know that though there is a lot of hope for the things that can be, there is also a lot of fear of some of the things that might happen as well. And, when I accepted this lives of my children, I expected not only joy to come, but also sorrow. And our Blessed Mother probably thought the same things too when she was confronted with this decision, which she responded with her Fiat.

Yet, at the same time, this picture also shows us that, no matter what our fears and worries are, that God can overcome anything and turn even the worst thing into something wonderful. After all, in the ancient world, the cross was the worst form of punishment ever. Even the word “excruciating” comes from the word “cross.” Yet, we Christians proudly display the cross in defiance.

After all, why should we fear anything, even the cross? We have God on our side!

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for coming down as a man to save us! Help us to trust in You, both in our times of joy and sorrow.

Amen.

 

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