Celebrating the Annunciation and Incarnation
Benefits of Increasing our Emphasis on Annunciation/Incarnation
1. Pro-Life Benefits
When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy it is all too often that she accepts the lie of our culture that her fetus is just a blob of tissue.
And unfortunately, many Catholics have the perception that Jesus first came into the world at the first Christmas. (And some believe the Immaculate Conception just a few weeks before Christmas celebrates Christ coming into the world.)
The Solemnity of the Annunciation, which is forgotten or ignored by many, offers the perfect evangelistic opportunity to proclaim the truth that while a miracle did happen at Christmas an even greater miracle happened approximately nine months (actually 38 weeks) earlier when Jesus came to live inside of Mary’s womb.
Proposed new Name for this Solemnity :
Annunciation to the Virgin Mary and
Or abbreviated as “Annunciation and Conception”
There is a danger that some Catholics who don’t know the Church well might mistakenly think that this feast was given some random date in the calendar. This title above will make its connection to Christmas more obvious and the Pro-Life connotations will be subtly present even if the homilist does not give an explicit Pro-Life message.
John Paul II
“The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life …” Evangelum Vitae (The Gospel of Life) (#101)
As Pope John Paul II points out above, it is not enough to just claim to be Pro-Life. We must find a way of bringing that message out into the world. Presently, many Catholic girls are not yet fully convinced of that message. With the Annunciation we have the opportunity to present that message in a manner that is non-confrontational. Even without talking about abortion and all that ugliness, we can speak clearly about the beauty of Life, and when human life begins.
In my own and hopefully humble opinion, this could be, and probably is, part of the problem. There is a tendency to confuse the Annunciation as being a Christmas time event, e.g. many think the Immaculate Conception on December 8 is a reference to Christ’s conception.1
For many who are confronted with the problem of an unwanted pregnancy it is too tempting to be misled by our culture that human life begins during some fuzzy time period of viability. It is only the Annunciation, Incarnation, and Christ’s conception that offers the Church the opportunity to focus its liturgical expression on when life begins. If one’s liturgical exposure to that event is limited to Christmas or Advent, the Church’s opportunity to express a clear and definitive expression of when human life begins is lost.
Since the average Catholic does not go to daily Mass it may profit the Church to consider the proposal of moving the Solemnity of the Annunciation to a Sunday celebration.
Our current liturgical calendar places little emphasis on the Incarnation. When most Catholics are asked, “When do we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world?” they will usually answer “Christmas” which is only partially correct. A much more theologically correct answer would be the Annunciation, but many of the laity either forget this or they are unaware of the theological significance of that celebration.
This might be partly so because this Solemnity is often moved and the laity sometimes miss the 9 month connection it has with Christmas. For example, in 2007 AD it was moved to Monday March 26. In the year 2005 it was moved to April 4. The Annunciation is currently moved from March 25 34% of the time.
However, a much bigger factor – in my opinion – of why this feast is often forgotten or ignored is because it is never celebrated on a Sunday ( in the Latin Rite). Although more Catholics do attend weekday Mass during Lent, most Catholics do not. And those not attending weekday Mass are probably the ones in most need of the message.2
Couldn’t the celebration of the Visitation to Elizabeth by Mary offer an equally suitable substitute for the teaching on the value of human life ?
No. Not completely.
It is true that the feast of the Visitation is helpful. And with over 1,000 abortions a day I would never want to discount any attempt at promoting the Pro-Life message. However, the Visitation opens the debate about when human life begins. While that feast would make the point that an abortion at six months is wrong, it would be very unclear about earlier abortions and the fuzzy notion of viability?
People do not die to themselves and make major adjustments to their lives for the next 18 years for maybes and fuzzy notions. It is only the Solemnity of the Annunciation/Incarnation that enables us to clearly explain, whether explicitly or implicitly, that human life begins at conception. ( Abortionists love to make the issue fuzzy. That is why they want to redefine pregnancy as being after implantation. They know that arguments based on conception have strength precisely because they get past the fuzziness with precise explication.)
1. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception does not offer the opportunity to impress upon the laity the importance of the Solemnity of the Annunciation and its Pro-Life ramifications for the simple reason that most Catholics do not attend Mass on Holy Days of obligation. And those who are in the greatest need of catecheses are the least likely to attend. Furthermore, the homily on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception usually already includes multiple complex issues. The homilist often already has a full agenda of points to make such as Marian devotion, what the Immaculate Conception means, which means explaining what Original Sin means, and how the it is neither unjust or unloving, etc. There is simply not much time to elaborate on a tangent issue such as the Annunciation.
2. A good case could be made that we all need to focus on the Incarnation because of its implications. With the exception the Easter Paschal Mystery it is probably the most important theological event in the history of mankind. It is the event upon which our history turns. The Incarnation actually implies Easter since it would be ludicrous to think that God, Creator Almighty, could lose in a battle against Satan who is a mere creature who depend upon the Creator for his continued existence.
See More about the Pro-Life Icon.