In preparing for my class in Spiritual Direction, I read Fr. William Barry’s book, A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace. In his book, he cited a poem by Denise Levertov called “The Annunciation”, and I keep returning to it over and over again. The line “God waited” continues to resonate strongly with me. I am reminded that, like Mary, God waits for us to answer the gentle offer of invitation in relationship with him.
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lecturn, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whome she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent. God waited.
She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes..
She had been a child who played, ate, spelt
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumpf.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, “How can this be?”
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –
but who was God.
~Denise Levertov, The Stream & the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes (New Directions Paperbook)
What does Mary teach us about saying “yes” to God?
What is God waiting on us for right now?