The Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord celebrates Angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and his announcement that she had been chosen to be the mother of the saviour of the world. Also being celebrated during this feast was Mary’s fiat, which means “let it be” in Latin her willing acceptance of the news.
The Annunciation, which means “the announcement,” is observed almost universally throughout Christianity, especially within Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Lutheranism.
Date of the Feast
March 25 is the date of the feast unless that date falls on a Sunday in Lent, at any time during Holy Week, or at any time in the octave of Easter (from Easter Sunday through Divine Mercy Sunday—the Sunday after Easter). In that case, the celebration is transferred either to the following Monday or to the Monday after Divine Mercy Sunday.
The date of the feast, which is determined by the date of Christmas, is nine months prior to Christmas. This date was set by the seventh century.
Type of Feast
The Feast of Annunciation is a solemn feast in Catholicism in honor of the Virgin Mary. Common prayers recited include the “The Hail Mary,” and “The Angelus.” This feast is also called the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Lutheran Church considers it a “festival,” while the Anglican Church calls it a “principal feast.” The Orthodox Church does not consider this a feast in honor of Mary, but rather Jesus Christ since it was the day of his incarnation.
There are several Bible readings or passages that discuss the conception or incarnation of Jesus and the announcement to Mary.
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10; Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11; Hebrews 10:4-10.
Luke 1:26-38. The announcement in Luke 1:26-38 is the most detailed:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “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 for with God, nothing is impossible.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Roman Catholic History of the Annunciation of the Lord
Originally a feast of our Lord, but now celebrated as a Marian feast (in honor of Mary), the feast of the Annunciation dates back at least to the fifth century.
The Annunciation, as much as or even more so than Christmas, represents Christ’s incarnation. When Mary signalled to Gabriel her acceptance of God’s Will, Christ was conceived in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. While most of the fathers of the church say that Mary’s fiat was essential to God’s plan of salvation, God foresaw Mary’s acceptance of his Will from all eternity.
The narrative of the Annunciation testifies powerfully to the truth of the Catholic tradition that Mary was indeed a virgin when Christ was conceived, but also that she intended to remain one perpetually. Mary’s response to Gabriel, “How can this be since I have no husband?” in Luke 1:34 was universally interpreted by the fathers of the church as a statement of Mary’s resolution to remain a virgin forever.
The 1970 Beatles song, “Let It Be,” has the phrases: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom: Let it be.”
Many Christians interpret these lines to reference the Virgin Mary. In fact, according to Beatles member and songwriter Paul McCartney, the reference is more literal. McCartney’s mother’s name was Mary. She has succumbed to breast cancer when McCartney was 14. In a dream, his mother had comforted him, which became the inspiration for the song.