Pondering an Announcement

Image by He Qi
Rather than post my own thoughts for the 'Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord', I'm sharing a poem by the British-born American poet Denise Levertov (1923-1997). It is is her reflection on the story of the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary in Nazareth to tell her she would bear a son, to be called Jesus.


Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom 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 to 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, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
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.

This post is the 17th in a series of daily Lenten reflections based on one of the Bible readings from the Common Worship Lectionary of the Church of England. This one is based on Luke 1: 26-38.


  1. I love Denise Levertov. Thanks for posting this one!

  2. Thanks Penny. I've only just discovered this poet - definitely my sort of poetry - I will be pondering more in due course. And thanks for following my posts through Lent. I've never tried posting daily before, so it's a challenge, as is my self-imposed limitation during Lent of not posting on anything other than one of the set readings for the day. It's been really helpful for me, even if no-one reads what I write!


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