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 April 4, 9 months before Jesus' birth at Christmas.

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

Scripture Reference:

Luke 1:26-38

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

31 Behold thou shall conceive in thy womb, and shall bring forth a son; and thou shall call his name Jesus.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

35 And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren:

37 Because no word shall be impossible with God.

38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

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).

 

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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   www.churchyear.net , 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).

 

Traditions, Symbols, Typology & Prayer

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

This page written by . Last updated 01-04-2015.

 

"For with God nothing will be impossible"

Do you know the favor of the Lord? God lavishes his grace upon all who believe in him. He shows his favor to the lowly, to those who are humble and receptive to his word.  We see the unfolding of God's plan of redemption in the events leading up to the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah. The new era of salvation begins with the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary.  This child to be born is conceived by the gracious action of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, who finds favor with God. As Eve was the mother of all humanity doomed to sin, now Mary becomes the mother of the new Adam who will father a new humanity by his grace (Romans 5:12-21). This child to be conceived in her womb is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.  He will be “great” and “Son of the Most High” and “King” (Luke 1:32-33), and his name shall be called “Jesus”, which means “the Lord saves”. “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The promise of an everlasting kingdom to the house of David (Isaiah 9:6-7) is fulfilled in the King to be born in Mary’s womb.

How does Mary respond to the word of God delivered by the angel Gabriel?  She knows she is hearing something beyond human capability. It will surely take a miracle which surpasses all that God has done previously. Her question, “how shall this be, since I have no husband” is not prompted by doubt or skepticism, but by wonderment! She is a true hearer of the Word and she immediately responds with faith and trust. Mary's prompt response of "yes" to the divine message is a model of faith for all believers. Mary believed God's promises even when they seemed impossible. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do God's will, even if it seemed difficult or costly. Mary is the “mother of God” because God becomes incarnate when he takes on flesh in her womb.  When we pray the Nicene Creed we state our confession of faith in this great mystery: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”.  God gives us grace and he expects us to respond with the same willingness, obedience, and heart-felt trust as Mary did. When God commands he also gives the help, strength, and means to respond. We can either yield to his grace or resist and go our own way. Do you believe in God's promises and do you yield to his grace?

"Heavenly Father, you offer us abundant grace, mercy, and forgiveness through your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to live a grace-filled life as Mary did by believing in your promises and by giving you my unqualified "yes" to your will and plan for my life." 

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