Celebrating the Annunciation and Incarnation










Objections and Answers

to the Proposed Solution


1.  The early church did not place the Solemnity of the Annunciation on a Sunday and the Incarnation is not a liturgical feast at all, so we should not change what was passed down to us.

2. We should not alter the things of God such as the timings of the Solemnity of the Annunciation to fix the lesser things of man such as the abortion issues.

3The Liturgical Calendar cannot be re-arranged just to accommodate a secondary purpose.

4. The Annunciation is a Marian Feast, and therefore, it gets outranked by the  Christological  Feasts of Lent and Easter which it cannot replace.

5. The focus of Lent should not be interrupted by this joyful feast

6. We must maintain the status quo and we must keep the Annunciation on March 25th so that its nine month association with December 25th, Christmas Day, is maintained.



1.  The early church did not place the Solemnity of the Annunciation on a Sunday and the Incarnation is not a liturgical feast at all, so we should not change what was passed down to us.

Response:  This objection is half right. We do want to continue and maintain what the heritage that God has given to through His Church.  However, we need to discern exactly what is being passed down and not read into what the Church has been doing a position or ruling that the Holy Spirit and the Church never intended.  And we cannot close our eyes to any truth that is an internal logical development of our tradition or any new insights to those truths that we have.

Why no Incarnation feast? 

The early church did not have the biological science to tell them when human life begins as we do today.  Without that tool they did not have the ability to correctly place the Incarnation into the liturgical year.  They knew how long pregnancy lasted, but they did not know that human life began with the beginning of pregnancy.  So, they could insert the Annunciation into the liturgical year, but not the Incarnation.

The fact that their liturgical calendar lacked the Incarnation should not be interpreted as a judgment against its inclusion because they lacked the science to really address the question.

By analogy consider the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274.)  His statements on how Mary was saved are considered unacceptable by today’s standards and our teaching on Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Does that mean he rejected the Church’s teaching on that, specifically Ineffabilis Deus by Pope Pius IX in 1854 ?  Dissenter’s try to claim that, but their logic fails on several points.  To reject something you have to truly consider it. 

However, Saint Thomas Aquinas never had the privilege of having the solution of Blessed John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) – that Mary needed to be saved, but was indeed saved from the first moment of her conception – being presented to him for consideration. Furthermore, Saint Thomas Aquinas lacked the scientific knowledge of how life began.  Since, he could not truly consider these facts that help us describe today how Mary was Immaculately Conceived, you cannot honestly say he rejected it, even though his words do not comply with today’s teaching on this issue.

Similarly, the early church did not have the science to place the Incarnation into their liturgical calendar, but that does not mean they rejected its inclusion on a prominent Sunday celebration, or diminished its importance in any way.

Rather, to discern the importance of the Incarnation in the early church we need to look to other sources of our tradition.

The best source, or the best clues, I propose is to look at the book of the Liturgy, the Bible which is the collection of those books and only those books that we are permitted to read during the liturgy.

Consider the Bibles of the Middle Ages.  The first page of each of the Gospels was often given its own page of special calligraphy.  Which I suppose one would expect since the four Gospels are so prominent.  However, one other verse also got that pre-eminent place of distinction.  It was Matthew 1:18.

Matthew 1:18 “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was ... found with child through the holy Spirit.”  

And that verse began with an enormous letter called the Incarnation Initial.

For example we see this in

Lindisfarne Gospels

Book of Kells

Canterbury Codex Aureus,     second

Now, lest some accuse the monks of the Middle Ages of some kind of aberration, let us look even earlier.  Let us look at the text of the Bible itself.

John the Evangelist considered the Incarnation so important that he put it right in the beginning of his Gospel.

John 1:14
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory ...”

The First Letter of John also begins by telling us about the Incarnation.  1 John 1:2-3  And, again the proclamation of the Incarnation is the primary focus of the Second Letter of John.

2 John 7
“ For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Also see the page on the Importance of the Incarnation



2. We should not alter the things of God such as the timings of the Solemnity of the Annunciation to fix the lesser things of man such as the abortion issues.

This too is half correct.  However, the Annunciation, and more importantly the Incarnation deserve to be placed on the most important days of our celebration on their own right.


3.  The Liturgical Calendar cannot be re-arranged just to accommodate a secondary purpose.

The feast of the Annunciation is also the Incarnation.  It is of such major theological importance to our faith it deserves in its own right a special recognition that only a Sunday observance can adequately give.  Only a Sunday observance will direct our laity to the attention that it deserves.  In the past it was a Holy Day of Obligation, but unfortunately today many Catholics no longer observe those obligations.  Hence, it is worthwhile moving it to a Sunday just as Ascension Thursday was moved to a Sunday.  Read more about the importance of the Annunciation and Incarnation.

4. The Annunciation is a Marian Feast, and therefore, it gets outranked by the  Christological  Feasts of Lent and Easter which it cannot replace.

Pope Benedict XVI  points out how the Annunciation is also a Christological feast.
“This is why the Annunciation is a Christological feast as well, because it celebrates a central mystery of Christ: the Incarnation.” 
(BENEDICT XVI    ANGELUS  on 25 March 2007)
Therefore, the Church can easily rule that this feast should out rank a Lenten Sunday.

5. The focus of Lent should not be interrupted by this joyful feast

The early church believed that celebrating the Annunciation/Incarnation fit perfectly within the Lenten celebration of sacrifice and mortification. See note 1.  Today however, the Annunciation is sometimes mistakenly thought of as being exclusively a joyful event because of its association with the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.  However, God’s mysteries are as broad as they are deep.

In the history of mankind there has not been a greater example of self sacrifice than what happened at the Incarnation and the Annunciation.  See complete section dedicated to answering this question under the heading of Lent.

6. We must maintain the status quo and we cannot move the Annunciation from March 25th.  We must keep the nine month association with December 25th, Christmas Day,  so as to maintain the length of Mary's pregnancy so that others make the connection with that feast as well.

This argument is short sighted for numerous reasons. In brief, it uses bad science to promote a falsehood and is counter productive.

The Falsehood.
As for the argument that it cannot be moved from March 25th, this is a false and misleading argument.  It is currently moved from the 25th quite often.  The Christological feasts of Lent and Easter outrank the “Marian” feast of the Annunciation, so the Annunciation gets moved quite frequently in our current calendar.  In 2007 it was moved to March 26.  In 2008 it will be moved to March 31.  In 2005 it was moved to April 4.  (See Calendar for 2005 AD)  

Our current calendar moves the Solemnity of the Annunciation from the March 25th date 34% of the time.  26% of the time it is moved six to fifteen days ahead to the eighth day after Easter, and on some occasions as late as April 9. 

Therefore, the argument that it cannot be moved is at best misleading, if not a denial of the facts. Since, we clearly do move the feast from the date of the 25th quite often, the argument is not whether or not we can or should move it, but rather what arguments do we have for and against moving it and when do we want to move it.  It should be noted that currently when March 25th  falls on a Lenten Sunday the Solemnity of the Annunciation is always moved, whereas under the new proposed plan the Solemnity would stay on March 25th  when that happens.


The Bad Science.
The proposed solution here still keeps it tied to the March 25th date although somewhat loosely. Actually, it is not essential that it be celebrated on March 25th because the gestation period is not exactly 9 months.  It is 38 weeks from conception to birth, (plus or minus 2 weeks for a normal pregnancy.)  So, if a baby was born on December 25 at 6 am, based on averages, he would have been conceived on April 3 at 6 am (plus or minus two weeks) – not March 25.   The proposed solution keeps it inside those parameters of 38 weeks plus or minus a couple of weeks. 


“Childbirth usually occurs about 38 weeks from fertilization ...
The expected date of delivery (EDD) is 40 weeks counting from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP), and birth usually occurs between 37 and 42 weeks.  The actual pregnancy duration is typically 38 weeks after conception. Though pregnancy begins at conception, it is more convenient to date from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period …”

“The World Health Organization defines normal term for delivery as between 37 weeks and 42 weeks (from LMP)”

See Wikipedia.


Just as the Ascension Thursday, a holy day of obligation 40 days after Easter, was moved to a Sunday for greater observance, the Annunciation, which also used to be a holy day of obligation and which is even more theologically important, could also be moved to a Sunday.


It is Counter Productive.
Emphasizing the March 25th date is more effectively achieved by adopting this proposal than by keeping the current calendar.  For example, the question to ask is, “Which method, the current calendar or this proposal, makes the connection between the Annunciation on March 25th and Christmas on December 25th most obvious to most of the people.”

Currently, we are drawing a line by connecting the dots for a nine month association by using March 25th, but unfortunately, albeit unintentionally, by far most Catholics never see that line.  At no time – 0% –  is the Annunciation celebrated on a Sunday when it would have the greatest potential to reach the masses with its powerful message.  Instead it is always celebrated, on an obscure –  and all but forgotten by most Catholics –  weekday Mass.   And so what is the point of drawing a line to connect the dots if almost no one sees the line?

Making the Connection Between
Annunciation and Christmas

Some Details

Would it not be better to keep celebrating this Solemnity on its own special day during the week?

God will undoubtedly reward those faithful who make sake sacrifices to praise His glory at daily Mass.  However, many Catholics for numerous reasons do not attend daily Mass.  Not only will celebrating this Solemnity on Sunday reach many more Catholics, it will reach the ones who are even more likely to have the need to hear its powerful message.


The Solemnity under this proposed solution could come as early as third week of Lent, but would more frequently come toward the end of Lent, i.e. fourth or fifth week. 

Solutions that Don’t Work and their Disadvantages

(Alternate Plan 3)
Keep the current calendar, but make the Annunciation a Holy Day of obligation.  However, the Church would probably still fail to reach those who need it the most since many Catholics do not go to Mass on Holy Days of obligation, and especially not those feasts to which they are not already devoted. 

(Alternate Plan 4)
The Solemnity could be moved to a Sunday, but only when March 25 falls on one of the first five Sundays of Lent (that is, prior to Passion Sunday – since for this discussion we will assume that the Church will not want to displace Passion Sunday or Easter.)  However, this would limit its Sunday celebration to only these few years for the next 120 years. 

2012, 2057, 2063, 2068, 2074, 2085, 2091, 2096, 2114, 2125 …
Such an irregular and infrequent occurrence would make the rule hard to remember from one generation to the next. And its lack of frequency would make it less effective.