Today in St Mary’s in the midst of Lent we keep the feast of the Annunciation. Today’s poem reflects this…perhaps a little long, if you don’t like long poems, just read one section -beginning, middle or end!

The Annunciation  by Denise Levertov

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

courage.

       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,

uncomprehending.

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,

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 was the moment no one speaks of,

when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,

                                Spirit,

                                          suspended,

                                                            waiting.

                  ____________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’

Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’

She did not submit with gritted teeth,

                                                       raging, coerced.

Bravest of all humans,

                                  consent illumined her.

The room filled with its light,

the lily glowed in it,

                               and the iridescent wings.

Consent,

              courage unparalleled,

opened her utterly.

2019-03-23T22:51:35+01:00