The Annunciation, an essential theme reminds Christians the love of God for human beings. In the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, this love is contemplated in the account of the incarnation. Through Mary’s unreserved self-surrender in response to the annunciation of the angel Gabriel, God’s salvific plan became true and continues to unfold in human history.
This Annunciation is painted in Chinese-style. On the right side, the angel Gabriel announces the good news of the incarnation of the Word of God to Mary. The image of Gabriel is inspired by Flying Apsara who is the Buddhist goddess of music and dance. This image integrates Buddhist figures and Christian symbols as follows: First, a Nestorian cross is placed on the angel’s hair embellishment. Second, there is a cross on Gabriel’s forehead, which signifies God’s salvation. Third, there is a pectoral necklace with the sign of Chi-Ro, which symbolizes Jesus Christ, worn around Gabriel’s neck. Gabriel’s right hand holds a peony, which is the symbol of royalty, propitiousness, and grace. The peony is presented to Mary by Gabriel with a gesture of salutation. Gabriel’s left hand holds a scroll with the calligraphy of Elijah’s prophecy, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The three banded clouds that accompany Gabriel symbolize Gabriel’s sending by the Holy Trinity.
On the left side, Mary is reading the scroll. The unexpected visitation of the angel Gabriel carries out the prophecy that she is reading. Mary’s right hand shows her palm upwards. This gesture symbolizes the attitude of openness, meekness, and total surrender to God. She points toward a Ruyi held upon her left arm. A Ruyi is a Chinese artifact that was used originally as a scratcher. However, now Ruyi refers to satisfy one’s desire or will. Mary surrenders her will to God and obeys God’s Will as a handmaid. Her veil floats as if it is filled with wind, which symbolizes the fullness of God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit. On the table, there are two pomegranates with many seeds inside them, which represent fertility––through Mary’s act of faith, many children of faith will be given birth. Behind Mary, there are lotus flowers. Even though these lotus flowers have grown from the mud, they remain elegant and beautiful. The lotus flowers allude to Mary as the immaculate conception.
Aloysius Hsu, SJ,
STL-Jesuit School of Theology-Santa Clara University