The Annunciation is one of my favourite feasts of the Church. Perhaps even my favourite after Easter and Christmas. There is just so much beauty and richness in this day and in this event. My excitement about this feast has only increased as I’ve gained more knowledge about it. So let me share with you why March 25th is so special to me!
What Happened at the Annunciation?
The event of the Annunciation of the Theotokos is described in Luke 1:26-38. God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin in the small village of Nazareth. The text records that this virgin was engaged to a man in the house of David, and that her name was Mary.
Then the dialogue begins. Gabriel says, “Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with you.” The birth of Jesus is foretold, and Mary expresses her astonishment at the angel’s words. Gabriel then explains how God will make Mary a mother, though she remains a virgin. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” After explaining the mystery of the incarnation to Mary, Gabriel goes on to inform her of Elizabeth’s miraculous conception in her old age. He reminds Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God.”
Finally, Mary gives her YES to God. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word.” And the Word was made flesh!
Annunciation at Church
In some places the Annunciation is a Holy Day of Obligation. Okay, the only country I found where this is true is Ukraine. (Go Ukraine!). It isn’t a day of obligation under the Code of Cannons of the Eastern Catholic Churches. But obligation or not, going to church to honour the day the Word was made Flesh is never a bad idea.
The troparion for this feast is: Today is the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the eternal mystery. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces the coming of grace. Therefore, we also cry out with him to the Mother of God: Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!
This is the day the Son of God becomes the Son of Man. This feast is so important to us that in the Byzantine Churches we don’t care if it falls on Palm Sunday, Great Friday, or even on Easter. The icon displayed will always be that of the Annunciation. (There are also proscriptions for how to combine this liturgical feast with others). Just in 2016, March 25th was also Good Friday, and the Latin Church moved celebrating the Annunciation to April 4th. I think they really missed an opportunity there, but more on that below!
You can read about the history of this feast day in Byzantine tradition here, including how this feast used to be considered a feast of our Lord, and how the emphasis changed to Mary’s role in the incarnation over time.
Learning From Tolkien
I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan. I have been ever since I read the entire trilogy in the weekend before the Easter I received my sacraments. And, Tolkien is super Catholic… so I also love reading biographies of him (especially Tolkien, Man and Myth). And reading works which explain how his writing expresses the truths of the Catholic faith. One such work I started reading was Frodo’s Journey by Joseph Pearce. (I’ll include the Amazon links below, in case you want to check them out). Reading this work helped me appreciate the greatness of the annunciation:
“Tolkien supplies a clue to the deepest meaning of The Lord of the Rings with regard to the specific date of the destruction of the Ring. The Ring is destroyed on March 25, the most significant and important date on the Christian calendar. This is the feast of the Annunciation, the date the Word is made flesh, when God becomes man. It is also the historic date of the Crucifixion, a fact that is all too often forgotten by modern Christians because Good Friday is celebrated as a moveable feast that falls on a different date each year” – Page 26, Frodo’s Journey, Joseph Pearce
Wow eh? I wish I’d learned this when I was in RCIA. This feast is placed significantly, not just in the sense that it is 9 months before Christmas.
March 25th in Salvation History
So March 25th is not only the day that the Word became flesh. It is also the day that Christ died to save us. According to tradition there are a few other important events in salvation history that occurred on March 25th (or at this time of year).
- creation (spring)
- the creation of Adam and Eve
- historical date of the crucifixion
- fall of Lucifer
- Israel passing through the Red Sea
- the offering of Issac as a sacrifice to God
Unfortunately for us, Good Friday doesn’t fall on March 25th until the year 2157. But just knowing the connection of these days helps us to better appreciate the depth of God’s plan for our salvation. Christ truly was born to die, and even at His conception is connected to His death. (If you recall, one of the three wise men also brought Myrrh – an oil used in burial, as a gift at Christ’s birth).
Celebrating the Annunciation at Home
The Annunciation reminds us that we are also called to say Yes to God. This feast is a time to reflect on what God is asking of us, and giving God the assent He requires to do His will in our lives. March 25th is a good day to work on the virtue of obedience.
There are other ways to incorporate the specialness of this feast day into our lives at home. Get a blue table cloth if you don’t have one (dollar store will have for cheap), and use that at your table for the duration of the feast day. If you don’t usually, pray the Angelus at 6am, noon, and/or 6pm, depending on when your family is awake and together. Read the gospel story of the Annunciation, and sing/pray the Magnificat. Check out TheByzantineLife Pinterest Board on the Annunciation for some ideas of crafts and other activities to do with children for the Annunciation.
So here are the Amazon links for books mentioned in this article. Please note that these are affiliate links. So if you make a purchase within 24 hours of clicking on them, we will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.