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by Michael Ford last modified 26 Mar, 2020 09:43 PM

Our Cathedral is hosting a 800th anniversary cathedral exhibition but, with the Cathedral closed, only the external exhibits can now be seen.

So each week we will give you access to one of the permanent exhibits in the cathedral. We will give you an image and a brief theological commentary.

This week, may we introduce you to 'Annunciation' by Ernst Blensdorf.

Annunciation may seem ambiguous. In any work given this title we might expect to see 2 figures – Mary and Gabriel. Perhaps the hands hold the clue.

One hand is stretched out as though representing Mary’s openness to the angel's message; the other hand is turned in towards her heart in acceptance of that message.

There is about her a kind of active receptivity rather than passive acceptance. We might think Mary’s gestures are related to that moment when she says in response to the news of Jesus’ birth, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.’

On the other hand, the shaping of the robe might be suggestive of a messenger rushing in to deliver his message.

Perhaps the artist is being deliberately ambiguous, as though in this unique moment Mary and Gabriel have become one.

And this suggestion might be supported by 2 poets, one German and the other Scottish.

From Rilke's poem 'Annunciation':

...when he looked, and she
Looked up at him, their looks so merged in one,
the world outside grew vacant suddenly,
and all things being seen, endured and done
were crowded into them: just she and he.

From Edwin Muir's poem with the same title:

See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other’s face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there.

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