FRIDAY, MARCH 25: In the midst of Lent, Christians take a break today to focus on the mother of Jesus, on the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Marked by both Eastern and Western Christians, the Annunciation marks the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she was to become the mother of the Son of God. (The Global Catholic Network has a full description.) Quite appropriately, this event falls precisely nine months from the date of the Nativity (Christmas). This event is recorded in the Quran, too, although Muslims hold that it occured during the month of Ramadan.
Here’s the Catholic version of the story: Mary was a virgin in Nazareth to whom an angel of God appeared and delivered news of her future child. Gabriel instructed Mary to call him Jesus, meaning “YHWH delivers,” and, although Mary questioned the archangel about her virginity, she was assured that the Holy Spirit would grant her immaculate conception. (Read more at Wikipedia.) To the angel, Mary gave her willing consent.
Experts speculate that Christians began observing the Annunciation even before they began observing Christmas. Eastern Christians celebrate the Annunciation as one of the 12 Great Feasts of the year, marking it an immobile feast even if it falls on Pascha (Easter). (Read more from the Orthodox Research Institute.) The Annunciation was also a central topic in Christian and Roman Catholic art, most prominently in the Middle Ages. The Annunciation is commonly referred to as “Lady Day” in England (Wikipedia has details.)
One important theme in this story, according to traditional teachings, is God’s preference to work through humble people who are pure of heart. Through this miraculous event, Mariology and Christology are intricately tied. (A Florida oratory recently received a $3 million Annuncition sculpture. Check out the article in Naples News.)