Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Annunciation and the Eucharist

Blessed Fra Angelico 1387 - 1455
The Annunciation from the Door Decoration of The Silver Cabinet for The Church of Santissima Annunziata, Florence
1451 - 3
Tempera on wood panel
39 x 39 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence

A far less magnificent composition than some of Fra Angelico`s compositions for The Annunciation such as that in The Prado or in The Convento di San Marco in Florence itself

On the face of it it is a simple work

It is a work of the mature artist towards the end of his life

He had painted the subjects for all his artistic life

It is a work for what was at the time the main Marian shrine in Florence at Santissima Annunziata

Mary is in a hortus conclusus. A long mysterious passage runs from the room to the infinite distance

No rays but there is a dove, a representation of the Holy Spirit

One of a number of images on the cabinet and therefore the iconography is reduced to the essentials

The work is framed by the relevant quotations from Scripture: Luke 1:26-38Isaiah 7:14

Mary, Angel and the Holy Spirit within what seems to be a cloister or Church. A mystery leading to a faithful contemplation of other mysteries: the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Passion and Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Pentecost and the Church

In his Encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed Pope John Paul II made the point that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not present in the Upper Room on the night of Holy Thursday

But he went on to say:

"55. In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. 
The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the Incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood. 
“Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church's Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. 
And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion? 
As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). 
In continuity with the Virgin's faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine."

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