The Annunciation - He Qi, The Godbearing Life, and Denise Levertov

I'm preparing to preach on the Annunciation, and I've been looking at paintings, dipping into a much-loved book, and reading poetry!  

I'm really taken with this artist He Qi whom I first came across through the cover picture of the Regent's Study Guide, Attention to Christ: Reflections on Baptist Spirituality.  And then, upon entering the chapel at Regent's, I encountered a number of his prints adorning the walls.  Check out the He Qi Gallery

An inspiring book which has informed my thinking, is, Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry.  The authors have some profound things to say about pastoral ministry as Godbearing, taking Mary, the Theotokos, Godbearer, as a model.

A favourite poet is Denise Levertov, and in her poem, Annunciation, she concludes:
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.

I'm not sure how much of this will be explicit in what I say, but my soul has been nourished in the process!


jim Gordon said…
Hi Geoff - He Qi's artwork expresses theology in glorious colour. And Denise Levertov's poetry has the same adventurous palette, this time with words. great combination. Thanks.
I'm currently reading Conversations with Denise Levertov where in her later interviews she defends an aesthetic unafraid of moral and poltical commitments - which places some of her poetry alongside the Maginificat as unambiguous critique of power, war and injustice.
Anonymous said…
I used Denise Levertov's "Annunciation" in a sermon two or three years ago. Go for it!
Geoff, thanks so much for both references — especially the Denise Levertov: That's my next sermon sorted!! Love and peace. Alan
I am planning to preach on the Annunciation also. Since I was not aware of the Levertov poem, I really appreciate the connection.
My starting place will another work of art: The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Jeff Palmer

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