The Convent of San Marco in Florence features many beautiful frescos painted by Fra Angelico in the 15th century. The most famous is not the one shown here, but a larger and even more beautiful painting of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary can be found above the stairwell where all the monks would have passed to enter their cells. But in each of the cells a smaller fresco was painted, with a few depicting the same subject like the image above which also shows the small curved walls of the tiny room. As I went from cell to cell, I thought about how much time these monks would have had to look at their own particular fresco, and I wondered about the imagery featured and why the annunciation was such a favourite choice.
This Sunday we will hear the reading from the letter to the Hebrews which begins with the famous definition of faith;
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
I wonder how you would define ‘faith’?
It occurs to me that the annunciation is a particularly powerful image to choose for any who would commit to a life of faith, not just for monks cloistered in their cells and living their days out across the hours of prayer. Faith is many things, but it is also a decision made over and again to be open to the new thing which may be born in us, and, through our lives, into the world.
I imagine the monk meditating on this particular fresco in his cell and surrendering anew each day to the Christ who brings to life fresh incarnations in every time and place. Whether in the 15th century or today, we can understand the life of faith as ‘the assurance of things hoped for’ that is brought into being by the persistence of trust, which is another good working definition. Perhaps annunciations are the result of persistent trust, and our meditations may not need a cell, but simply the repeated surrender which is at the heart of faith.
May Christ be born anew in us and in our community, today and every day through our shared life of faith.
Grace and peace,