Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Come Holy Spirit: Overshadowing

Annunciation, Fra Filippo Lippi
I wrote about this painting of the Annunciation in December. I think that this small, almost unnoticeable image of the Holy Spirit might be my favorite.

The Holy Spirit never calls attention to Himself, He is always calling our attention to the Lord, working behind the scenes to fill us with grace. This, I suspect, is why it is so hard to find pictures of the Holy Spirit doing the things he did in the scriptures. There are also remarkably few prayers to the Holy Spirit, and despite about 50 years of the Charismatic Renewal, there aren't that many songs about the Holy Spirit either. 

I chose to put the Annunciation at the center of this novena because it is the apex of the action of the Holy Spirit between Creation and coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Everything before the Annunciation led up to the Incarnation of Our Lord and everything after proceeds from it. And nobody knew.

In Giotto's frescoes of the Annunciation in the Scrovegni Chapel the only indication of the Holy Spirit is a barely visible light shining on Mary from above. 

The Annunciation, Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel
Mary and Gabriel aren't even in the same space. Their little rooms are on either side of an arch, below a scene of the God the Father sending Gabriel to Mary. The drawn curtains indicate that we are seeing something that is usually hidden. Unlike most scenes of the Annunciation which are filled with symbols, these spaces are bare except for Mary's reading desk. This desk is almost ubiquitous in paintings of the Annunciation, but usually there is a copy of the scriptures, a book or a scroll sitting on it. In this image, the desk is bare but Mary holds the book which she has been reading. Her face is the face of a woman deep in thought. Gabriel holds a scroll. He brings the message of salvation. The expression on his face is intent and urgent. Unlike Mary, who receives the light, he is radiating light.
Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen. Prayer from Day 5, Novena to the Holy Spirit

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