The Annunciation Window

We celebrate Mary receiving the news of her immaculate conception from the Angel Gabriel on March 25, which is 9 months before Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The maker of the Annunciation window is unknown.  It was appropriately given in memory of a woman named Mary. Mary Tilden McNall lived from 1831-1891. The window was made  around 1910 when the current church was finished and installed in the west wall of the nave, near the narthex (entrance).

There are three lancets in the Annunciation window and Mary is in the center one with the Angel Gabriel to her left. His left arm is raised as if blessing her, while his right hand holds a sign of his authority as the messenger of the Lord, an ornamented mace. Angels behind Mary and in the right lancet celebrate by making music with a recorder and lutes. Mary holds a book in her right hand with her finger marking her place as if she was interrupted in her devotional reading. The unknown artist used Luke’s report of the Annunciation as the basis for his depiction of this important event (chapter 1:26-38, particularly verses 28-30).

Mary’s expression is uncertain but also respectful, which reflects Luke telling us “she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be”, and that Angel Gabriel reassured her with these words, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” In verse 34 Mary asks “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Angel Gabriel explains to Mary how she would conceive a son and that her cousin Elizabeth has already conceived a son after so many years of trying.  It is believed that Jesus and the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist, were related since their mothers are thought to be cousins. The final verse quotes Mary in a refrain we read throughout the Bible, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

There are many symbols in this window from the dove above Mary’s head representing the Holy Spirit and the unborn child with rays of light emanating from the dove representing God, to the Easter Lily, which is a symbol of the Resurrection, in the metal pot on the right lancet. The right lancet also depicts a pulpit and an open Bible representing the Word of the Lord and the imparting of knowledge. The colors in this window are unusually dark in overall tone and there are subtle details in this design including the folds in the robes and the feathered wings and coloration in Gabriel’s wings. Based on observation and tradition, these details and colors are typical of German style: lots of soft colors. The use of ochres, muted tones, and a more ornate style with beautiful faces and no halos are indicative of this.

Karen Royce