It would not be Advent without this painting, would it?
I tried to "borrow" a friend's close-up, but it refused to permit itself to be lifted. Perhaps you can see it here.
Two years ago, I had this to say:
This might be my favorite painting in the world. All over the internet this time of year, it remains fresh to me. In the past I've liked it because, frankly, Mary looks a lot like I did as a very young woman, and her puzzled expression confirms the likeness.
This year, I've noticed other things. The messy bed. The worn surroundings.
The uncompromising light.
Is that what we pray for, when we are so bruised and fragile that the flames of the advent candles threaten to engulf us in sorrow?
A birth that can lead only to Good Friday, because it is only there that we can be sure that God knows us?
And a year ago, this:
Last year it was that uncompromising pillar of light that drew me in.
This year, it's the rumpled and perplexed young woman. I'm not young anymore, but I am most certainly rumpled and perplexed.
And this year?
As evidence of our profound capacity to project ourselves into what we observe, when I looked at this painting online yesterday I no longer saw messiness or perplexity or the worn surroundings. My eye was drawn straight to her face (which was why I was excited about my friend's enlargement of that detail). I saw, in that youthful expression, a directness and calm as she looked into the face of her future that could only reflect the peace of acceptance of all that it would bring.
I'm not there yet but, just as I always try to "preach ahead" of myself, so now I try to "live ahead" of myself.
Perhaps if you stare long enough into a light that uncompromising, some of it rubs off on you.