Solemnity of the Annunciation: Christians venerate the incarnation of Christ

Painting of young woman in robes sitting on bed, looking at pillar of light in room

An artistic interpretation of the Annunciation, considered the actual moment of Christ’s incarnation. Painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25: As the seeds of springtime bring the promise of abundant new life, so today many Christians, especially Catholics, mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation—formerly the Feast of the Annunciation—commemorating the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, with news that she would bear the Son of God. A principal Marian feast, the Solemnity of the Annunciation has been a primary event in the Church year since the 4th or 5th century.

Lady Day, as the solemnity is sometimes called, is observed annually on March 25—nine months before the date of Christmas / Nativity. (Learn more from Fish Eaters.) For several centuries, the New Year began on March 25 for much of Europe; in central Europe, the feast is still alternatively known as the “Feast of Swallows,” as swallows return on or around this day from their migration.

FROM LUKE:
MARY AND GABRIEL

The Gospel of Luke details the story of the Annunciation. According to Luke, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth, a city of Galilee, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. When Gabriel approached this woman, the virgin named Mary, it was announced: “Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” Though Mary was troubled by the greeting, Gabriel assured her that she need not be afraid, and that she had found favor with God. The angel described to Mary the son that would be conceived in her womb, the one who would be the Son of the Most High. (Wikipedia has details.)

Following Mary’s inquiry, Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” To this, Mary announced herself the “handmaid of the Lord,” to which the will of God would be done, according to the word. The Solemnity of the Annunciation marks the pivotal day of the Incarnation of Christ. Gabriel’s salutation of “Hail Mary” is repeated whenever the “Hail Mary” prayer is recited.

ACTIVITIES & MORE

Ideas are abundant in ways to celebrate the Annunciation. Here are a few ideas from Women for Faith and Family and Global Catholic Network:

Children may draw or craft the Annunciation scene, using crayons, colored pencils, clay and other creative materials.

Adorn the home with flowers, such as the symbolic and favored roses, lilies, baby’s breath or carnations. Alternatively, flower seeds can be planted, to represent the new life coming forth that is “hidden from view.”

Create an Annunciation Candle using a white or blue pillar candle. A small image of the infant Jesus may be fastened to the candle and covered with a tiny cloth, so as to “hide” the baby in the body of the candle.

Annunciation: Christians recall Gabriel’s visit to Mary

Painting of woman sitting in the dark by a doorway with a white angel looking at her through the doorway

A depiction of the Annunciation. Photo by Waiting for the Word, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, MARCH 25: Jesus’s Passion and Easter (Pascha) may be on the horizon for the world’s 2.1 billion Christians, but today the Church turns to an event much earlier in the story of Jesus: the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Delivered by the angel Gabriel, the Annunciation informed Mary that she would soon conceive and bear a son; this son, to be named “Jesus,” would be the savior of mankind, according to Christian tradition. The Gospel of Luke describes how Mary, though frightened at first, listened to Gabriel’s words and then replied: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” In the Church’s calendar, the Annunciation falls precisely nine months before Christmas.

Gospels give no concrete evidence of the location of Mary’s Annunciation, though most agree that it took place somewhere in Nazareth. (Wikipedia has details.) While Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist, the Annunciation was given to Mary: It’s written that John “leaped” inside Elizabeth upon hearing Mary’s news. As part of the Annunciation, Gabriel assured Mary that she had found favor with God, and the Catholic church emphasizes God’s decision to not only place the Son of God in her womb, but to “enrich her soul with a fullness of grace,” as well. (The Global Catholic Network has more.) The Annunciation is held in such high esteem, in fact, that it is observed as a feast in the Eastern Church even if it falls on Great and Holy Friday. The Annunciation is also described in the Quran, and Muslims tradition relates the Annunciation as having taken place during the month of Ramadan.