Monday, April 9, 2018

Children don't have to go to heaven. A short reflection on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Children don't have to go to heaven.

Today is the feast of the Annunciation, on this special day, Christians around the world celebrate the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, when the angel foretold the coming of the Son of God, the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus Christ, the little maiden of Nazareth accepted this great responsability. Let it be unto me according to thy Word. For us Anglicans, the feast of the Annunciation is considered to be a principal feast, not only of the Virgin Mary, but also of the Lord and it also appears in the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer.

For Christians, with the Annunciation came the fulfillment of the ancient prophesy of the Hebrews, Hosea says when Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. The messianic prophecy is made even more clear in Isaiah, where the famous passages still resound in our ears from the not so far Christmas: for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

With the Annunciation of the Lord by the ancient messanger of old, the Archangel Gabriel, the coming of Emmanuel is made real and the prophecy fullfilled, the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel is announced to the little maiden of Nazareth, the voice of the Lord thunders through his messanger and the future tabernacle of the Christ, the blessed Virgin, is highly exalted through words of praise Hail! Full of Grace! The Lord is with Thee! "I am with you, my Son shall be in you, oh holiest of women". Mary gently and humbly accepts... let it be unto me according to thy Word. The rest is the history of the Lamb which we just experienced through Holy Week and finally at Easter, God's revelation to humanity fullfilled in the completion of the old and new covenant and ready for his last coming. 

In the Renaissance, a time of literal rebirth of the arts and beauty, the Annunciation was among the most popular themes in Christian iconography, the greatest masters of the Quattrocento and the High Renaissance all the way to Mannerism depicted renowned renditions of this theme: be it the great Italians, from Fra Angelico to Filippo Lippi, through Botticelli, Perugino and Raphael to the Flemish masters such as Van der Weyden or Memling. In the Renaissance, ethereal renditions of this subject were at the same time distant and close to us, the almost void of emotions aristocratic, classical beauty of the angel and the Virgin, often seeming to dwell in reproductions of beautiful rooms, loggias set in what looks like Eden, the only detail to bring this apparent and stoic calm is the Holy Spirit or God's word falling from the sky, at the same time, the angel bends under the weight of the importance of the message he is carrying and the Virgin also bends in humility, accepting the mission of salvation for us all. The Annunciation is a sign of hope, of rebirth, it shows that the birth of a baby can break through the darkness of times and the Renaissance man understood this.

The mighty God made himself vulnerable in the Virgin Mary, this is what we commemorate. God became a vulnerable child for us all. Two days ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when suddenly several well known online journals from all over the world started reporting the news of another attack by the Assad regime to some 300 poor Syrians. I was disraught, but scrolling down I began reading of how many children perished too, I became even sadder, I kept reading, scrolling... then it happened, some pictures of the deceased little angels appeared, there I lost it. I completely lost it. 
Words of faith in these moments can almost feel annoying, there is not much to say really, these children should be happy and playing. Their parents shouldn't be forced to take photoshraphs of them to let the world know, they shouldn't go through this. What can we do? The little we can do is probably to raise awareness, raise this issue, make it known, make us heard, loudly. Those children shouldn't be in heaven now. Children don't have to go to heaven. Children have to play. When the Virgin Mary knew she was waiting for her Son, Jesus was just as vulnerable, but he came to birth, when he was born Herod ordered the brutal slaughter of all the little children of Israel, Jesus survived despite the bloodshed, the announced Jesus had to fulfill the mission of salvation of the Father, the little Jesus is still here despite these horrors, this is important to know, he will always be here for the salvation of all; Emmanuel means God is with us, Jesus always is and will always be. But the problem is that we humans should strive for peace, slaughters of the innocent keep happening and they shouldn't, it is our duty. Pray for Syria. 

Children don't have to go to heaven.

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