Collect: The Annunciation (Mar 25)

Behold the Lord’s Servant.

The Annunciation by Rossetti

Ecce Ancilla Domini! (Behold the Lord’s Servant)
Painting, 1849-1850
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer, 240

As this Collect makes clear: it’s all connected. In the life of Jesus—and ours—their is birth, the cross and passion, death, and “the glory of … resurrection.” Let us live life fully. ~Fr. Dan

Begin quote

The Annunciation (pp. 188 and 240)

In the Gregorian sacramentary this collect is used as a postcommunion prayer for the feast of the Annunciation [….] Cranmer translated it:

We beseech thee, Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known Christ thy Son’s incarnation by the message of an angel; so by his cross and passion we may be brought into the glory of his resurrection; Through the same Christ our Lord

Both the 1662 revision and this [1979] Book made changes for the sake of clarification, though the substance of the original remains. In an admirable way the collect links the Annunciation and the Incarnation with the themes associated with the time of the year [Lent] in which the feast occurs.

Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1981), p. 200

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Image: Art in the Christian Tradition (Vanderbilt Divinity Library)


Ecce Ancilla Domini

The Annunciation by Rossetti

Ecce Ancilla Domini, oil on canvas, 1850, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828 – 1882

The Biblical account of the Annunciation: Luke 1:26-38

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

At the time Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted, Ecce Ancilla Domini (Latin: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord,” also called, The Annunciation), England was the most advanced industrialized nation in the world. In the following year, 1851, the Great Exhibition in London (the first “World’s Fair”) celebrated the advancements of industry and culture. Like leaders of industry, English artists of the day were looking toward the future. Unlike many artists of his generation, however, Rossetti and like-minded friends did not follow their contemporaries. Instead of looking toward new directions in art, they looked back to medieval times and called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (the name is in reference to a time before Raphael and the fifteenth century Renaissance). Among their beliefs was that art lost its spiritual quality after the Renaissance.

In subject matter, paintings of the annunciation depict the angel Gabriel greeting Mary to tell her she would bear a son and call him Jesus. Fifteenth and sixteenth century artists often placed this event at an intimate indoor setting or on a porch. Mary is pensive usually with a dove, representing the Holy Spirit above her head.

In contrast to idealized settings – often with dramatic lighting – created typically by artists of the Renaissance and beyond, the Pre-Raphaelites depicted subjects as real people in natural surroundings. In Rossetti’s, The Annunciation, Gabriel does not have dazzling rainbow-hued wings and Mary is not sitting in a throne-like chair. Instead, she is on her bed in a loose white nightgown looking as though she was awakened just a few minutes earlier and is now sitting up trying to process the message that Gabriel brought. She seems somewhat bewildered. A wingless Gabriel is standing upright by the bed, looking like an ordinary man floating in air slightly above the floor with his feet in flames. [Rossetti’s brother posed for Gabriel and he was originally without a halo. His younger sister, Christina, posed for Mary.] As in traditional depictions, Gabriel is presenting a lily (symbolizing purity) to Mary; a small haloed-dove is nearby. Although the red rectangular shape in the right foreground may not be recognized immediately, it is a sewing stand with its work-surface folded down. The image on it is a long-stemmed lily that Mary has been embroidering.

When Rossetti’s Annunciation was exhibited initially it did not receive favorable reviews. Critics were not accustomed to biblical subjects being treated in this non-traditional manner.


In addition to painting, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote poems. The poetry of his younger sister, Christina, however, received far more acclaim. Her, poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” was set to music by Gustav Holst and is a Christmas hymn of the Anglican Church. This poem also was set to music as an anthem by Harold Darke. Anglican Churches honor Christina Rossetti with a feast day on April 27th.

Hovak Najarian © 2016

The Feast Of The Annunciation, March 25 (celebrated March 26, 2012)

VASARI, Giorgio
(b. 1511, Arezzo, d. 1574, Firenze)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Oil on poplar panel, diameter 157 cm
Móra Ferenc Múzeum, Szeged
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image again for extra large view.

Pen and wash, squared with black chalk, diameter 133 mm
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image again for extra large view.

Separated, misidentified and now united by scholarship.

Annunciation, oil on panel (1570-71), Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)

by Hovak Najarian

During the High Renaissance of the late fifteenth century, men such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo had what seemed to be unlimited skills.  The term Renaissance man is used even today to designate a person with knowledge and impressive skills in several disciplines.  Although Giorgio Vasari was born in the early sixteenth century and missed being a part of the High Renaissance he was a person with a wide range of interests and skills.  In that respect he was very much like the generation before him.  Today, however, he is remembered primarily for his architecture and the biographies he wrote about Italian artists; his paintings have lost favor.

The art between the High Renaissance and the Baroque period – starting near the end of the sixteenth century – is not clearly defined; for lack of a better term, historians have called it “Mannerism.” Artists of this period painted in a variety of styles; some of it expanding on or “in the manner” of Renaissance ideas and others tending toward an anti-classicism.  Often there would be exaggerated perspective, dramatic lighting, and an absence of the statuesque poses that were part of Renaissance painting.  Vasari’s Annunciation was painted during the latter part of the Mannerist period and like the work of Raphael, his figures are classical both in the carefully delineated contours and in their faces.  Yet, Mary’s pose and that of the angel Gabriel are in keeping with the theatrical presentation found in Mannerist painting.

In Vasari’s preparatory ink and wash study we can see he modified his original idea when he made his painting.  In the study, Mary is at a reading table (at the bottom center of the drawing) with her finger on a book and there is surprise on her face as though this is the moment when she looked up and realized she had a visitor.  In the painting, the book has been shifted out of the way to a stand on the far left side (Mary’s right side) and her extended left hand is now simply making a graceful gesture.  Her face is slightly downward and her eyes are downcast to indicate she is within herself in this serene moment.  In both the study and the painting, her right hand is on her heart.  Gabriel is hovering nearby with arms folded.  In his hand he is holding a lily, the symbol of purity.

Symbols were used widely in the art of ancient cultures and many of them were carried over into Christianity.  Halos (or a comparable glow) and wings were incorporated into Christian art as early as the third century.  The Bible does not say angels had wings but artists added them; now they are standard identifying features.  Unlike the large gold-leafed halos of the fourteenth century, Vasari’s Mary is given a delicate transparent circle.  She is dressed in the colors blue and red; both are muted in tone.  Blue represents heavenly grace and red symbolizes the Holy Spirit.  In paintings, Mary often is dressed in blue.  Gabriel is clothed in yellow and white; yellow represents light and white represents purity, innocence, and virginity.

In Christian art, figures in a painting often exist in a different reality where the source of illumination is not sunlight or artificial light but rather a light that emanates from a holy figure such as Christ.  In Vasari’s Annunciation, the light source is the dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Vasari worked consistently for wealthy patrons and a painting such as the Annunciation was not made for working class people.  Like much of the art of the High Renaissance and the Mannerist period, it was painted to be “fine art” for a sophisticated audience.

© 2012 Hovak Najarian

%d bloggers like this: