Monday, December 10, 2012

Obedience in the Annunciation Mosaic

Randy Hoang, a college-one seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, offers the second of three papers on the mosaic of the Annunciation being published on the MAS journalism blog.  The first paper was written by Brother Marinus Kim.

Obedience, A Sign of Discipleship: The Annunciation Mosaic at Mount Angel Seminary
by Randy Hoang

Standing nine feet at the entrance on the left wall of the Annunciation building at Mount Angel Seminary is the majestic mosaic of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel.  Meditating on the mosaic, I found myself breathless at its beauty and started reflecting on what the meaning of it was for me.  The Annunciation mosaic for me is a representation of obedience.  We take Mary's acceptance as a learned attitude of obedience as a servant of God.

Detail of the Moasic of the Annunciation
What captivates me immediately after seeing the mosaic is its feeling of grandeur in the entry.  The mosaic gives me a glimpse of the glory and divinity of that moment when it occurred.  What also strikes me is the craftsmanship of the piece and the story behind how it was pieced together. 

Being the color many of us associate with wealth and dignity, gold is used in numerous areas.  The usage of gold is dominant, from the background of the mosaic to the hints of it on the trimmings of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary; giving light to them as holy subjects, it pulls the whole piece together.  The gold facade of the backdrop really amplifies the power of the mosaic and also give life to the figures of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving both the Archangel and Mary a divine presence.

Without hesitation I can say that color plays a huge role in how I perceive this mosaic.  Variegated colors are extremely common in this depiction.  Green is the representational color of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit in this case works through Gabriel, a messenger of God.  Through the Holy Spirit, I hope that he will guide me to become an obedient messenger of God in spreading His truth.  The tranquility of the passive blue and dominant orange is suppressed by the lighter tone of the royal purple on the wings of the Archangel.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is presented with a dark tone of red on her garment followed with the variegated tones of orange and neutral lavender on the bottom portion of her garment.  Red is the dominant color that pulls my eyes to Mary.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is the main focus of this mosaic; therefore, the majestic, royal and powerful red is the main palette for her.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I can see that she is a representation of the perfect role model of Christianity.  Through all struggles, she prevailed to listen to the Lord without hesitation.  According to the Gospel of Luke, after receiving the news she stated, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:26-28).  Through this Mary conveys her obedience that through God everything is possible.  I take this as an example of what we should mirror in our daily lives, to "do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

The subjects of this specific mosaic are the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I can tell that the Archangel is depicted on the left-hand side of the mosaic because he is holding a scroll and has majestic wings.  The scroll is a symbol of his obedience of delivering God's message.  The Archangel Gabriel is depicted as a messenger of God.  He was summoned to give the news to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would be carrying the Son of God; Mary would conceive Him through the power and grace of God and call Him Jesus.  Even with the risk of being labeled with an adulterous act, Mary did not once hesitate to deny, but she accepted.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is positioned on the right side of the mosaic, holding a red spindle with her more feminine garment.  Because Mary is putting her spindle down, I can tell that she is giving her full attention to the message; therefore, it is an act of obedience of listening to God.  I can take this simple example as a theme for my everyday life because when I put things down and listen to God, I become obedient to his call.

Composition is an important factor when trying to understand the story behind a piece of art.  The expressions on both the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary are very solemn, yet that solemnity plays well with how they are positioned.  The posture of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary is very relaxed, yet alert.  The posture of the Archangel is bent at the knees, and the hands are pointed directly towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, showing the excitement of the good news.

While the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing vertically straight, I can tell her sense of shock and caution at receiving the news.  Because Mary is holding her spindle, I could conclude that she was doing her daily work.  I can conclude they are staring at heaven because of the presence of the dove standing on the Bible, the clouds, and the open space.  Heaven is a representation of authority; therefore, the Archangel Gabriel and Mary being under the Bible, dove, and clouds is a sign of obedience.

As Catholics, we are very familiar with the story of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  With seeing the mosaic in its majestic and glorious event in person and understanding the values of color, composition, and subjects, I am more equipped to take the event and make it more personal and sentimental.  The message of the Annunciation mosaic brings me the learned attitude of complete obedience to God because through His saving grace we will become like the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary, true disciples of obedience.

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