The Art of Advent: The Annunciation, by Derek Rotty

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*NB: The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Reproductions are in the public domain.

By Derek Rotty, Catholic Exchange, Dec. 1, 2022

Derek Rotty is a husband, father, historian, theologian, & Director of Evangelization & Discipleship at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Jackson, TN. His first book, A Life of Conversion: Meeting Christ in the Gospels, is available from Our Sunday Visitor Press. Follow his other ruminations at

Viewing and pondering sacred art offers the faithful a great way to prepare for the birth of Our Blessed Lord at Christmas. This series of articles will highlight several pieces of art related to the Gospel readings of this year’s lectionary cycle, as well as two pieces related to the week leading to Christmas. Each of these pieces of art allows us to reflect deeply on God’s plan for our lives, and to be prepared for the joyful celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity.

Avatar photoDuring these seven days leading up to Christmas, December 17 to 24, the Gospel readings provide us with the full story of God’s preparation for the birth of Our Blessed Savior. In the middle of that series, we hear the story that is probably most obviously connected to Advent. We are told of the Annunciation, the moment when Mary was presented with her call to bear the Son of God to the world (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s fiat, her “yes” to God’s plan, specifically opens the way to the Nativity at Bethlehem.

This moment has been depicted often and very beautifully in sacred art throughout Christian history. Think of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, for example. One of the finest of those depictions is by the American artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Annunciation was painted in Paris in 1898, and its use of light and color has captivated Christian disciples ever since. This piece of art, with its intricate details to tell the story, provides a fantastic opportunity for us to meditate on the reality of Advent and hope fulfilled in Jesus.* …

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