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The Annunciation

Icon Holy Card

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Imprinting available.
PCA501 $3.95

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The Annunciation Icon Greeting Card (CA6772)
The Annunciation Icon Reproduction (A01)


The icons in this collection recall important Marian feasts of the Church and famous visions or apparitions of Our Lady. “The Annunciation" depicts the dramatic moment described in Luke 1:28 when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces the role she is to play in the birth of our Savior. Display this icon on March 25 and during Advent.

Icon holy cards are a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks, 3" x 5". The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message.

Image Origins

The Gospel account of the Annunciation is told in Luke 1:26-38. The story begins:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virginís name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

Icons of the Annunciation have been common since the 6th century. The oldest known image of the Annunciation was painted in the 2nd century in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary to be "Theotokos" or "God Bearer," greatly encouraging devotion to her as an important component of Christian life. By the 6th century, various feasts linked to the life of Mary were added to the church calendar including The Annunciation, celebrated nine months before Christmas on March 25. Icons of the Annunciation have been part of the sequence illustrating the twelve special holy days of the church liturgical year ever since.

There are two different forms of this image dating from antiquity. A newer version shows Mary standing to receive the angelís message. Our reproduction is derived from the older version, showing Mary seated and spinning yarn as Gabriel greets her. This image draws inspiration from Lukeís account and from the apocryphal Protevangelium of James, probably written in the late 2nd century. That story elaborates upon the Gospel infancy accounts found in Matthew and Luke. It tells of Mary spinning scarlet and purple yarn for the veil in the Temple.

Theology and Symbolism

Mary is dressed in her traditional garb of a blue chiton and head band, covered by a deep wine red cloak or "maphorion." The star symbols on her shoulders and head signify her perpetual virginity; before, during, and after bearing Jesus. Her hand is turned outward, expressing surprise and apprehension. The image captures the moment in time from Luke 1:34; "How can this be ...," prior to her faith-filled acceptance of verse 38; "Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word."

The angel Gabriel is presented to us with one wing raised and feet positioned as if running a race. This signifies his role as a messenger from God. A circle at the top of the icon with streamer descending toward Mary reminds us of the Holy Spirit coming upon her to effect Jesusí conception. The red cloth draped above the architecture in the background is an iconographic device used to signify that the action actually took place indoors, even though it is shown outside.

The platform and chair supporting Mary are drawn in a distorted fashion known as "inverse perspective." Realistic perspective in a painting calls for objects that are near to be drawn larger than equal objects that are further away. Iconographers know how to draw realistically, but they choose to invert the perspective to draw the viewer into the scene. Icons are meant to be studied deeply, not merely viewed.

There is no source of natural light in this icon and no shadows. Rather, each person and object appears to be its own source of light. Iconographic tradition uses this technique to symbolize the Divine light suffusing every part of the holy image.

Size: 3 x 5


Price shown does not include imprinting charges.

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