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The Annunciation as Model of Meditation: Stillness, Speech and Transformation in Middle English Drama and Lyric

The Annunciation as Model of Meditation: Stillness, Speech and Transformation in Middle English Drama and Lyric

Marginalia, Vol. 2, Cambridge Yearbook (2004-2005)

Saetveit Miles, Laura

Abstract

The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, portrayed in the Gospel of Luke 1: 26-38, is the moment when the Godhead becomes incarnate in human flesh and begins the Christian narrative of salvation (Appendix I). It is the introduction of Mary, the Mother of God, the humble young woman chosen for her pureness and humility to bear Christ in her continually inviolate womb. In medieval liturgy, art, prose and poetry Mary is a model of virtue and holiness, and the Annunciation scene provides some of her role’s most vital features within the spirituality of the Middle Ages. Luke’s Annunciation episode, the only scriptural account of the event, sets the tone for all subsequent Annunciation representations: his language and the words of his characters are simple and spare, yet complex and evocative. Luke’s bare but explicit rendering of the event prompted medieval literary interpretations to emphasize two crucial features: the power of the words exchanged, and the rich, ambiguous stillness that surround them.

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