Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is also called the Feast of the Incarnation. It is one of the earliest liturgical feast days in the Church calendar, dating back to the 4th century. It is the day on which Christians celebrate a shocking visit by an angel to a young Jewish girl over 2000 years ago.
Now, angel visits aren’t exactly unheard-of in Biblical accounts, but this one is BY FAR the best.
So, it gets a feast day–a Solemnity no less!
Here’s the scene. There Mary was, sitting in her room. . .or hanging up clothes on the roof. . .or mending a hole in her (definitely) blue head covering. . .or what?!! What was she doing when the angel appeared to her? Then, the Angel Gabriel came in. . .like a bright light. . .or like a giant golden winged man. . .or like a what?!! There are so many options for angelic appearances!
I like to meditate on the Gospels and place myself in them—as a spectator or as a character. In this one, I want to be the Nazarene form of a Mrs. Gladys Kravitz–lurking behind some window and disbelieving my own eyes as the greatest pregnancy announcement in history unfolds. I cannot tell you how many times I have choreographed this scene. It’s wild! And I love it. It’s also happens to be a favorite among classical artists! So, I’m in good company.
In the account, upon the angel’s message, Mary gives her gloriously courageous fiat. She says yes to become the mother of the Son of God, the Christ.
This is the Mary of my heart. The mother of my Lord. Boldly inquisitive and relentlessly willing, she receives. At her word, The Word is conceived in the womb that had been prepared for Him from all eternity. Can you even imagine the gasps and roars of the heavens as God moves into the home of His Mama’s womb? This was the day of the conception of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
And, not coincidentally, nine months from today on December 25, we will all gather to celebrate another glorious day–the day Our Savior was born!
But, today is not to be overlooked.
It was, afterall, the day on which God entered into our humanity. He takes our flesh and all our human messiness, but without the sin. This is the cause for all our hope and salvation! Which, by the way, means we have good cause for another little mid-Lent break!
Put down those penances, people! This is the day that the Lord has made (and was begotten, not made)!
I actually love that this Solemnity in the Church’s liturgical calendar falls during Lent. It is so fitting. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen writes, “Every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.”
The whole reason Christ came into this world was to die. For us. His life and his death are so intricately woven together in salvation history that we rejoice in His conception among the very days we prepare for His death. This is no coincidence. This is a very human experience of the peculiar mingling of sweetness and suffering.
Looking ahead to Christmas, we will set out nativity scenes with Mary and Joseph looking down at the tiny baby Jesus lying in a manger. The three wise men will be there holding gifts. One of them will have in his hand myrrh—the oil of embalmment.
This symbol of death will be oddly placed in the midst of a joyous birth just as we celebrate today the unspeakable joy of a conception in the midst of the desert. Because this is what it means to be human this side of heaven.
Photo credit to Liz Banko, Bellator Contributor, who texted Franchelle this picture of the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, by chance, just hours after she wrote this blog. And, that is also how the Holy Spirit works! Not exactly an overshadowing, but we’ll take what we can get!