The Annunciation: Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, and is celebrated nine months before Christmas – though because the 25th March coincides, this year, with Holy Week, churches in Western traditions will observe it on the 8th April instead. This sonnet is the product of time spent grappling with themes of power and consent in the context of Mary’s story (Luke 1) contrasted with Tamar’s (2 Samuel 13).


“No” for a thousand tongues resounds unheard
As men in every corner wield might
And will, surmising that the sum gives right,
Against the impotence of Tamar’s word.
The image jointly borne is two-ways marred:
A brutal face to face a veil of fright,
As “love” dissatisfied engenders hate,
Faith fails, and hope seems hopelessly deferred.

But One of strength eclipsing any man’s
Waits for a yes and, with Mary’s consent,
Conceives to turn the tables, overthrow
The proud and raise the powerless with hands
Outstretched; a Word within a womb, intent
On answering each disregarded no.

Carolyn Whitnall, 2019

Can You Hear Me Now? #MeToo
Flickr: Alec Perkins

But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

2 Samuel 13:14

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.

Luke 1:51-53

Carolyn completed a ‘Bible and Violence’ track MA with us in 2022 and began her PhD in January 2023, under the supervision of Helen Paynter. Her research explores the interpretation and use of scripture in the neo-charismatic evangelical movement sometimes called the New Apostolic Reformation.

A Sonnet for the Feast of the Annunciation
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