This week, I welcomed Victoria Emily Jones, the writer and creator of the website Art and Theology, to join me on Old Books With Grace. You can either watch the YouTube video of our discussion (right below this paragraph), or listen to it on the podcasting service of your choice. Below I’ve included the art and poetry that we discuss in this wonderful episode! I hope it encourages you in your preparations for Advent and imitating Mary in receiving the Christ child.
“Our Lady’s Salutation” by Robert Southwell (ca. 1561–1595) (spellings modernized) Spell Eva back and Ave shall you find, The first began, the last reversed our harms; An angel’s witching words did Eva blind, And angel’s Ave disenchants the charms; Death first by woman’s weakness entered in, In woman’s virtue life doth now begin. O virgin breast! the heavens to thee incline, In thee their joy and sovereign they agnize; [agnize = acknowledge] Too mean their glory is to match with thine, Whose chaste receipt God more than heaven did prize. Hail, fairest heaven that heaven and earth doth bless, Where virtue’s star, God’s sun of justice, is! With haughty mind to Godhead man aspired, And was by pride from place of pleasure chased; With loving mind our manhood God desired, And us by love in greater pleasure placed: Man laboring to ascend procured our fall, God yielding to descend cut off our thrall.
“Annunciation” by Scott Cairns, from Idiot Psalms: New Poems (Paraclete Press, 2014) Deep within the clay, and O my people very deep within the wholly earthen compound of our kind arrives of one clear, star-illumined evening a spark igniting once again the tinder of our lately banked noetic fire. She burns but she is not consumed. The dew lights gently, suffusing the pure fleece. The wall comes down. And—do you feel the pulse?—we all become the kindled kindred of a king whose birth thereafter bears to all a bright nativity.
The land lies open: summer fallow, hayfield, pasture. Folds of cloud mirror buttes knife-edged in shadow. One monk smears honey on his toast, another peels an orange.
A bell rings three times, as the Angelus begins, bringing to mind Gabriel and Mary. “She said yeah,” the Rolling Stones sing from a car on the interstate, “She said yeah.” And the bells pick it up, many bells now, saying it to Mechtild, the barn cat, pregnant again; to Ephrem’s bluebirds down the draw; to the grazing cattle and monks (virgins, some of them) eating silently before the sexy tongue of a hibiscus blossom at their refectory window. “She said yeah.” And then the angel left her.Mysteries of the Incarnation: “She Said Yeah” by Kathleen Norris, from Little Girls in Church (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995)
More resources on the Annunciation and art, suggested by Victoria Emily Jones: