Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pondering the Annunciation

This semester in Writing in the Humanities, a college-one writing course, the students wrote an essay on the mosaic of the Annunciation inside the building named Annunciation at Mount Angel Seminary.  This assignment was done in the context of learning to write about an image.  Below is Peter Lawongkerd's work for this assignment.

The Theme of Hope: The Mosaic of the Annunciation at Mount Angel Seminary
by Peter Lawongkerd 

The mosaic of the Annunciation is located in the Annunciation building at Mount Angel Seminary.  When I sit in front of the mosaic of the Annunciation and look at the icon carefully, I realize the icon is very beautiful.  I believe that the people who see the icon will fall in love with it.  What comes to mind whenever I see the mosaic of the Annunciation is the theme of hope.  It is the hope of Mary, who is the subject of the icon, and the hope of the people who see the icon.

The Annunciation mosaic viewed from the top of the stairs in the Annunciation building.
The Annunciation mosaic from within the lobby of the Annunciation building.
The Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary
The first element I notice immediately is the background.  The icon has gold for the whole background.  It is very bright and powerful.  Gold has a very important role in the mosaic of the Annunciation.  It makes the image look more valuable and fancy.  The significance of gold is the pure reflection of light, and it is the symbol of divine light.  The background gradually leads my attention to the foreground.  Mary and the Archangel Gabriel are the subjects in the foreground.  The dove is above both of them.  The white dove represents the Holy Spirit.  Mary is working on a spindle, and she also has a conversation with the Archangel Gabriel.

The Archangel Gabriel's wings are very beautiful.  His vestment is green and his cloak is colored white and blue.  Blue stands for the mystery of divine life.  Green is a symbol of hope, and it also expresses nature and life.  In the moment when I am sitting in front of the mosaic, the theme of hope comes to mind.  Psalm 40 states, "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord" (Ps 40:5a).  Hope is when you have a strong and confident expectation for whatever you hope for.  In this case, we hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Mary, we hope that he will humbly come to redeem us from our sin.  When I look at the Archangel Gabriel's attitude and his face, it seems to me that he expects something from Mary, and he also looks very excited.  We can see how people feel by looking at their faces because their face is the window of the heart.  The Archangel Gabriel announces the message to Our Blessed Mother.  It is the message of hope.  The Holy Spirit that comes upon Our Blessed Mother in the icon also shows that God never abandons us.  He is always with us, and this gives us reason for our hope.

My eyes turn slowly to Our Blessed Mother.  She looks very alert and alive.  Our Blessed Mother's cloak is red and purple.  Red makes Our Blessed Lady's image in the foreground look more alive and interesting.  The significance of purple in iconography is that it is a symbol of virginity and power.  Mary's purple cloak represents her virginity.  In the icon, Our Blessed Mother's face seems to be surprised by what she just heard, but she looks confident, and I can tell from her face that she believes the message of the Archangel Gabriel.  Mary believes that everything is possible with God, and she believes that God's plan has to be done.

Imagine that you are Mary and an angel comes to you and tells you that you will conceive by the Holy Spirit of the Son of the Most High.  The question that will come to your mind is, "How can this happen?  Why me?"  Of course, you need faith in order to believe what you just heard.  Faith is to hope for something which is not seen but which is true.  Our Blessed Mother always says yes to God.  She has a very strong faith, and she hopes that what God has promised is true.

There are many people who come to visit Mount Angel Seminary each day throughout the week.  Some visitors are Catholic, and some are not.  The mosaic of the Annunciation is useful for the Christian visitors who know what the icon is about, and they can use it for their prayer and meditation.  However, the visitors who are not Catholic or Christian or may not have been catechized might want to know what the Annunciation is all about.  The mosaic of the Annunciation inside the building might help them to understand the history of the Annunciation.

According to my own experience, I felt hopeful when I saw the mosaic the first time.  The others who see the mosaic might feel the same as I feel, and it is also possible that they might feel different because each person has a different perspective and different life experiences.  It depends on how that person feels at the moment.  For instance, some people might have a lot of problems in their life or they might feel isolated from society, but when they see the mosaic, they might feel hopeful and be able to continue their life.  I asked Clyd Rex how he felt about the mosaic of the Annunciation.  He answered me that he also feels hopeful when he sees the mosaic.  The mosaic expresses and illustrates humanity's hope in God.  He says that Jesus Christ is born in his heart everyday just by looking at the mosaic.

When I see the mosaic of the Annunciation, the theme of hope comes to my mind.  They may little pieces of glass put and arranged together in a beautiful manner and style.  However, it is not just an art piece of colored glass tiles arranged in a beautiful stylistic manner.  It is a sign of hope for Christian eyes and hearts.

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