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The Solemnity of the Annunciation

Annunciation Feast History, Information, Prayers, Resources, Traditions, & More

Annunciation Definition and Summary

The Solemnity of the Annunciation commemorates the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would conceive Jesus, and the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The feast is March 25th, 9 months before Jesus' birth at Christmas. The Annunciation falls exactly nine months before Christmas. In 2013, because March 25th falls in Holy Week, the Annunication is celebrated on Monday April 8th. Prayers: Annunciation Prayers

Basic Facts About the Annunciation Feast

Liturgical Color(s): White
Type of Holiday: Solemnity
Time of Year: March 25;
Duration: One Day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Announcement of the incarnation by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, and the conception of Christ in her womb
Alternate Names: Lady Day
Scriptural References: Luke 1:26-38

Introduction

The story of the Annunciation (the announcing), from the Latin annuntiare, is recounted in Luke's gospel. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a Son, and his name would be Jesus. His greeting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" has echoed down through the ages in many prayers, and is known as the "Hail Mary." Mary was initially confused as to how she would bear God's Son, since she was a virgin. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon on her. This is why when we recite the Nicene creed we say "by the power of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." The Apostles Creed likewise affirms that Jesus was "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit." Thus, the Feast of the Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus' miraculous life, and it begins with the theotokos conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power.

Mary's response to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," (Latin: ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) is a statement of humble faith, and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. This response is called Mary's fiat, from the Latin word meaning "let it be done." The Catechism addresses the significance of Mary's faith in relation to her role as Christ's mother:

By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body (973).

History

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to at least the 6th century, and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. In the West, the first authentic reference is in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the 7th century. The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656), and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the latter council, the feast is exempted from the Lenten fast.

The oldest observance of the day is on March 25, although in Spain the feast was at times celebrated on December 19 to avoid any chance of the date falling during the Lenten season. March 25 is obviously 9 months before Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Scholars are not completely sure whether the date of the Annunciation influenced the date of Christmas, or vice-versa. Before the Church adopted fixed days of celebration, early Christians speculated on the dates of major events in Jesus' life. Second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa tried to find the day in which Jesus died. By the time of Tertullian (d. AD 225) they had concluded that he died on Friday, March 25, AD 29 (incidentally, this is an impossibility, since March 25 in the year AD 29 was not a Friday). How does the day of Jesus' death relate to the day of his conception? It comes from the Jewish concept of the "integral age" of the great Jewish prophets. This is the notion that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception. Therefore, if Jesus died on March 25, he was also conceived that day. The pseudo-(John)Chrysostomic work de solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis nostri Iesu Christi et Iohannis Baptistae accepts the same calculation. St. Augustine mentions it as well. Other ancient Christians believed Jesus was conceived on March 25th for another reason: they believed (based on Jewish calculations of the period) that the creation of the world occurred that day. Thus, it was fitting that the one who makes us new creations was conceived on the day the world was created. For more information on this subject check out Choosing the Date of Christmas: Why December 25?, by the author of this web page, Calculating Christmas by William Tighe, and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Of interest, the Feast of the Annunciation is one of the 4 "Quarter Days" in the Church. These are days which fall around the equinoxes or solstices, and mark the beginnings of the natural seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. These Quarter Days were Christian feast days used in medieval times to mark "quarters" for legal purposes. The other days Quarter Days are the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24), Michaelmas (September 29), and Christmas (December 25).

Worship and Prayer Resources

Prayers and Collects for the Feast of the Annunciation

Annunciation Art, Photos, and Images

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Icon of the Annunciation

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The Annunciation (Fra Filippo Lippi)

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The Annunciation (Jan Van Eyck)

More Liturgical Artwork

Mary Books and Devotions

              

              

Traditions, Symbols, & Typology

Traditions
COMING SOON!

Symbols
Budding Fleur-de-lis
Lily
Dove
Two interlocked circles

Old Testament Typology Foreshadowing the Annunciation
Announcement of the Birth of Isaac
Announcement of the Birth of Samson
Announcement of the Birth of Samuel
God, From the Burning Bush, Announcing Israel's Deliverance

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if the Annunciation Feast Falls on a Day During Holy Week or Easter Week?
In the Western Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast is moved if necessary to prevent it from either falling on a Sunday, or during Holy Week or Easter week. To avoid a Sunday, the previous Saturday (March 24) would be observed instead. In years when March 25 falls during Holy Week or Easter Week, the Feast of the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday). Folk belief is that it is bad luck when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday.

See A Brief Catechism About Mary

General Links

A Brief Catechism About Mary
Choosing the Date of Christmas: Why December 25? David Bennett

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This page written by . Last updated 04-04-2011.



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