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The Annunciation
Ave Maria Gratia Plena
by Oscar Wilde
Was this His coming! I had hoped to see
A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold
Broke open bars and fell on Danaë:
Or a dread vision as when Semele,
Sickening for love and unappeased desire,
Prayed to see God’s clear body, and the fire
Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly.
With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,
And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
An angel with a lily in his hand,
And over both the white wings of a Dove.
Frightened by the appearance of the angel Gabriel in her chamber, the adolescent Mary cowers on her bed, in this 1850 painting of the Annunciation by Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Gabriel bears a lily, a symbol of the virgin’s purity, as he informs Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus—a story recounted only in the Gospel of Luke (1:26–38). Three more lilies are depicted on the embroidered cloth hanging at the foot of Mary’s bed. A white dove, representing the Holy Spirit that “will come upon” Mary, flies in the window toward the Virgin.

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