Hope in the Darkness

Before we plunge into Advent festivities this year, can we all just take a minute and acknowledge the beauty and power of Mary’s yes?

I mean, it didn’t have to be that way. She could have said no. Yes, she was full of grace, but also she had free will. She could have denied God’s plan, just as Adam and Eve had done before her.

But she didn’t. And now we have Jesus.

And that is pretty much the most amazing thing ever.

This year, in particular, her yes takes on an even more radical dimension for me. If you had told me a year ago in the beginning of 2019 that I would have a baby at the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic kicked into high gear, and that the entire world would basically shut down and life would transform completely and utterly for me and my entire family, I would have been afraid. Who would want to bring in a child into the midst of that sort of crazy world and uncertainty?

And yet, here we are together. Things are crazy and there’s a lot of uncertainty that abounds everywhere. But he has been a blessing to my family and I in ways that I cannot even begin to explain. In a world that is so full of darkness, he has been a light. In a world that is full of constant reminders of death, he is a reminder of life.

And that is powerful.

And I can’t help but think about Mary and her role in this whole story of salvation. She was poor. She was about to be married. Even the best living conditions of that time would have been considered impoverished by our standards. The political climate was awful — I mean, Baby Murdering King Herod was in control of her territory… need I say more? She had plenty of reasonable reasons to say no to God.

And yet she said yes.

And the whole world is brighter because of it.

So I wanted to share this beautiful artwork that I found… a painting done by Caravaggio of the Annunciation.

Annunciation, by Caravaggio, c. 1608-10. Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy, Nancy, France.
Annunciation, by Caravaggio, c. 1608-10. Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy, Nancy, France.

In it, the angel, Gabriel comes into the room of Mary and greets her. A lily is in his hand, which symbolizes her purity. With one finger, you can see that he seems to be giving her an important message. But you cannot see him clearly, nor can you see the expression on his face. Unlike many other paintings, which depict the angel with clear and vibrant detail, he turns his back on us and his face seems shrouded.

Who we do see is Mary, and she stands out brilliantly in the light of the angel so that everything behind her — the bed, the chair — seem to be shadowed by this magnificent scene in place. The shadows are striking — the laundry basket in front of her that she appears to have been dealing with moments before is half illuminated by the angel’s light and half shrouded in darkness.

Mary kneels in front of the angel, her blue mantle covering most of her body, though you can see a little bit of red of her clothes, where she appears to be striking her breast as a further sign of humility. Her head is veiled and bowed towards the angel with her eyes turned down. But her eyes are not closed and it appears that she is listening intently to what the angel is telling her, with a solemn look on her face.

It is an intimate scene that makes us almost feel as if we are invaders who are eavesdropping on an intensely private moment between God and Mary. And the darkness only intensifies this feeling. After all, everything is shrouded in darkness. Everything but the angel and Mary. But they are bathed in light, and it is that light that gives us that feeling that something wonderful is happening in this moment. In a place where there was darkness, there is suddenly light.

And where there is light, there is hope.

Long ago, Christ said that He was the Light of the World. And that should give us hope. Because right now, things look pretty dark right now. But soon, we will be anticipating Christmas — that special time in which we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This year, may look upon the light of Christ with all the more eagerness.

Come Lord Jesus Maranatha!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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