Monday, December 23, 2013

The Mosaic of the Annunciation Teaches Obedience

This post is one of two essays from this semester's Writing in the Humanities, a course taught by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB, that will be published on the MAS Journalism blog.  Huong Dinh is a college-one seminarian studying for the Diocese of Oakland.

The Virtue of Obedience: The Mosaic of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Huong Dinh

The newest building at Mount Angel Seminary is named Annunciation.  There is a huge mosaic of the scene of the Annunciation that stands at the entrance on the left side of the lobby.  The mosaic is bright, but surrounding it is a neutral background.  This mosaic has a high ceiling above with two lights and two skylights, and it usually attracts people when they enter the building.  I have never seen anything like it before, and it is a very beautiful mosaic.  Moreover, the mosaic shows Mary as an example of obedience in her heart by her saying yes to God's will.  This virtue is so necessary to me as a seminarian because it helps me accept feedback from my formation director to practice and become a good priest in the future.

First of all, the main figures of the mosaic are the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The initials PX TB above the halo of the Archangel Gabriel are the Greek initials for the Archangel Gabriel, and the initials MO OV above the halo of the Blessed Virgin Mary are the Greek initials for the Blessed Virgin Mary.  According to the Gospel of Luke, the Archangel Gabriel is a messenger of God.  God sent him to proclaim the good news to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would carry the Son of God.  At that time, Mary was about fifteen or sixteen years old, so she was probably afraid when the Archangel Gabriel told her that.  The news was so unbelievable to Mary, but with a strong faith she was willing to accept God's will.  Her faith is an example of complete obedience and trust in God's will even though she did not understand it.

Secondly, at the top of the mosaic, there is a circle where the Bible is placed on top of a small table with a dove standing on the Bible.  I think the circle symbolizes heaven, the dove the Holy Spirit, and the Bible is Jesus because it talks about his life.  The bottom left figure on the mosaic is the Archangel Gabriel, and the bottom right figure is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary stand across from each other.  Although they are talking to each other, their eyes see upwards to heaven, which means they are faithful servants of God, and they always listen to God's will.

Their postures are very peaceful.  The Archangel Gabriel bends a little at his knees, his left hand holds a scroll, and his right hand points towards the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Those gestures mean that he comes from God, and he blesses the Blessed Virgin Mary because she will be the Mother of God.  His wings point in the opposite direction.  One wing points directly to heaven, and the other is swiftly behind him.  In the same way, the Blessed Virgin Mary holds a spindle in her hands as if she is working on her daily job.  She stands at the door of her house, symbolizing her openness to the Holy Spirit coming into her life, just as I am through my formation at seminary.

Finally, the background of the mosaic is gold.  That impresses me because it is used in numerous areas and in the halo of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Gold usually symbolizes the light of heaven and eternity.  It makes me think that the mosaic takes place in the presence of God. Gold also gives me a feeling of glory and divinity.  As I am a seminarian, I must too take into responsibility the task of carrying the glory of God and his Church.  Therefore, I must be obedient to the teachings of the Church.

Besides the background color, there are many colors that appear in the mosaic.  The Archangel Gabriel's wings have mixed some colors together, but the main color is blue.  Blue also appears in the circle at the top of the mosaic.  Blue is the color of the heavens and of divinity.  The Archangel Gabriel has a various range of greens on his garment.  Green is the color of the Holy Spirit.  In the mystery of the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit works through the Archangel Gabriel and the Incarnation of the Son of God.  This mystery helps me to reflect when God calls me to follow him.  I had a desire to become a priest when I studied at a university in Vietnam.  At that time, I was confused about my vocation although I heard God's call because I was not sure if it was God's voice or my inner voice.  Finally, with the Holy Spirit's guidance, I had the courage to answer God's call, and as a result I am a seminarian now.

The Blessed Virgin Mary has dark red on her cloak and purple on her dress.  Purple in iconography is a symbol of virginity and power.  In this mosaic, purple means the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Besides that, red is symbol of sacrifice and royalty.  The red cloak that the Blessed Virgin Mary wears means she really sacrifices herself to say yes to God, to allow God's will to work on her.  Due to her obedience, the promise that God promised to his people in the past was fulfilled.  The promise is God will send his Only Son to save his people. Although God has power upon Mary, he still respects her free will.  This reminds me of John 3:30 which says, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  This means to me that I have to sacrifice myself by picking up my daily cross and allowing God to work in me like Mary.

In conclusion, as Catholics, I think that we all are very familiar with the mystery of the Annunciation.  This mystery presents the Blessed Virgin Mary's readiness to answer God's call through the Archangel Gabriel.  I was able to understand more deeply about the mystery of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary who encourages me to say yes to God's will.

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