Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord - March 25
The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would become the Theotokos (God-bearer). Even though a virgin, Mary would conceive a child who would be the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus (“Yahweh delivers”). Most of Christianity observes this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March.
The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.
The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, 26-56. Saint Luke describes the annunciation given by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God.
Here is recorded the "angelic salutation" of Gabriel to Mary, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum - Lk 1:28), and Mary's response to God's will, "Let it be done to me according to thy word" (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) (v. 38)
This "angelic salutation" is the origin of the "Hail Mary" prayer of the Rosary and the Angelus (the second part of the prayer comes from the words of salutation of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation).
The Angelus, a devotion that daily commemmorates the Annunciation, consists of three Hail Marys separated by short versicles. It is said three times a day -- morning, noon and evening -- traditionally at the sound of a bell. The Angelus derives its name from the first word of the versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary).
The Church's celebration of the Annunciation is believed to date to the early 5th century, possibly originating at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c 431). Earlier names for the Feast were Festum Incarnationis, and Conceptio Christi, and in the Eastern Churches, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ, but in the Latin Church it is a feast of Mary. The Annunciation has always been celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day.
Two other feasts honoring Our Lord's mother, the Assumption (August 15), and the Immaculate Conception (December 8), are celebrated as Holy Days of Obligation in the United States and many other countries (Malaysia only observes Assumption as a day of obligation). New Year's Day, January 1, is observed as a Solemnity of Mary. The Annunciation was a Holy Day throughout the Universal Church until the early 20th century. Many Catholics who are deeply concerned with the defense of the life of unborn children believe it would be fitting if the Feast of the Annunciation were restored to this status. Although it seems unlikely that it will be added to the Church calendar as a Holy Day of Obligation, we can certainly take on the "obligation" ourselves to attend Mass.
One sign of the significance this Christian feast had throughout Western culture is that New Year's Day was for centuries celebrated on March 25. It was believed by some ancient Christian writers that God created the world on March 25, and that the fall of Adam and the Crucifixion also took place March 25. The secular calendar was changed to begin the year on January 1 (in 1752 in England and colonies, somewhat earlier on the continent).
The Annunciation in Islam
Islam shares a similar tradition of honouring Mary as mother of Jesus (but not Mother of God). Apart from the similarities, there are also other significant differences in the narrative of Jesus' conception and birth, e.g. no mention of Joseph as the foster father,the place of birth etc. References to the Annunciation are found in two verses of the Quran:
Sura 3 (Al-i-Imran - The Family of Imran) verses 45-51:
45Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah: 46"He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous." 47She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what he willeth: When he hath decreed a plan, he but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is! 48"And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, 49"And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah's leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe; 50"'(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me. 51"'It is Allah who is my lord and your lord; then worship him. This is a way that is straight.'"
And Sura 19 (Maryam - Mary) verses 16-26; both Suras without mentioning Jesus as the son of God:
16Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. 17She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then we sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. 18She said: "I seek refuge from thee to ((Allah)) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah." 19He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. 20She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?" 21He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for me: and (we wish) to appoint him as a sign unto men and a mercy from us':It is a matter (so) decreed." 22So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. 23And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" 24But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; 25"And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. 26 "So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to ((Allah)) most gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being'".