He told me not to be afraid, but I wasn't. I'd been expecting him for a
long time, ever since that day they took me to the temple when I was
very small and showed me to the High Priest. He put his hand on my
head, I remember trying to look up at him through the weight of his
woollen sleeve that was brushing my face—he said, 'A true
daughter of Israel!' and blessed me. My mother and my father were not
like those of other children, for they were old. One day my mother took
me to the Golden Gate. 'This is where it happened,' she said. 'An angel
promised us a child, and that child is you.' Ever since then I'd been
expecting that angel to turn up some day. And then he did.
'Fear not!' he said. But the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom
should I be afraid? He came softly into the room, so softly that at
first I did not even notice him. I was reading my book, and thinking
very hard about a particular story in it, the story of the prophet
Daniel, who was able to read the writing on the King's wall. And then I
noticed a beam of light that fell across the floor, stopping just at my
feet. I looked up, and he was there. What is an angel like, you ask?
Like a man, and yet not like a man. Smaller, at least this angel was
small, about my own size if not perhaps a bit smaller—another
reason I was not afraid of him. He got down on one knee, a bit
awkwardly I thought, and his wings folded neatly into his back, like
those of a large dove. The wings were much prettier than a dove's
wings, though, for they had many little eyes in them, eyes of all
different colours, that winked and blinked and shone. The
light seemed to come from the angel's head, and was soft, like
He called me by name and said I was full of grace. This troubled me at
first, I did not think he could mean me. How am I full of grace, I
wondered? My mother, she is full of grace, her hands make bread and
flowers. I am not yet like her, and fear I may never be. When I make
the bread or tend the garden I often go wandering in my thoughts with
the kings and prophets, and so the bread sometimes burns in the oven.
Unlike the Three Holy Children! Or I look down to see I have pulled up
not the weeds but the lettuces. He said I was blessed among women.
He said that I would have a child, whose name would be Jesus, and who
would be a great and everlasting king. I was wondering how this would
come about when I felt a pain sharp as a knife deep inside me. I would
have fallen to the ground but the angel caught me and lay me gently on
the bed. He was surprisingly strong for such a small angel. He put his
hand on my brow and said again, 'Fear not!' and as he touched me he
took away all my fear.
From that day I began to know the child growing inside me. Sometimes
I'd talk to him, call him my little lamb, my soul's delight, sometimes
I'd sing to him:
Pipe to me, mother
and I shall dance
Mourn for me,
and I shall weep…
I told my mother and my father, and they told Joseph. He had already
heard about it from the angel as well, so you see, it was true, there
was nothing to fear. 'She's young to have a child,' my mother said, I
saw she was worried for me. But my father said we must have faith in
the Lord's ways, for they are all nothing but wisdom and mercy. Joseph
came to see me, he tried to kneel down before me and kiss my
feet—imagine that! Poor old man down on his knees to a little
girl. 'Please please, get up…' I said. 'I am nothing, I am
only a serving girl to the Lord.' He had brought a flowering branch,
white with those little flowers that come with the first
flush of spring. I took the branch and put it over the bed, and it has
not withered from that day to this.
Grace Andreacchi is an American-born writer living in London. Her most recent novel is SCARABOCCHIO.
Read more of her work in the archive.
Detail of painting by Sassoferrato, Virgin Annunciate (17th Century).
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