The prologue to St. John’s gospel introduces God’s Son as the Word. This life-giving Word—spoken down through the ages—became flesh and lived in our midst. For all of Christian history, the Word is intimately connected with all of human life. It is the purpose of TWIL (“The Word Is Life”) to bring the gospel to life and to bring life to the gospel. This blog will feature reflections on the Sunday Scriptures from contemporary Catholic writers, words of wisdom for our Spiritual journey from saints and blessed, and thoughtful reflections on masterpieces of sacred art. We at Living with Christ hope that they will help you grow in your spiritual life and deepen your relationship with the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Using Art for Prayer and Reflection: The Annunciation (Henry Ossawa Tanner)

Categories: Sunday Scripture Reflection,The Word Is Life

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the first African American artist to achieve international acclaim. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and settled in Paris to continue studying. It was only after he became established as a salon artist in Paris that he began focusing on religious subjects.

In Tanner’s The Annunciation,  Mary looks toward the light of the Angel Gabriel. Tanner captures Mary’s reaction as she learns of God’s plan for her. In Mary’s face we see her humility, her apprehension: Tanner captures her recognition of the magnitude of what this moment means both for her own life and for the world. Here we see Mary depicted without a halo, without heavenly attire—just a young peasant girl whose expectations for her future have been immediately, drastically altered. Mary understands that this path will not be easy, yet she offers herself wholeheartedly to God.

As we celebrate Advent, we are reminded of how profoundly Christ’s birth impacts our lives if we choose to follow him. And we rejoice, because Jesus comes not only to change our own lives, but to change the whole world.

If you wish, sit quietly with the picture and reflect on the following questions:

  • What would I like to say to Mary right now?
  • What is God asking me to do this Advent?



This work is in the public domain. For a high resolution image, visit:

Author: Living with Christ

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