Celebrating the Annunciation and Incarnation
Updated October 2, 2012
Restoring the Liturgy,
How would it be best to increase our
emphasis on the Annunciation and Incarnation in order to tap into this
powerful and theologically rich mystery ?
Marian or Christological Feast ?
Pope Benedict XVI
The best solution would be to restore this feast, Annunciation-Incarnation, to being a Holy Day of Obligation and to always celebrate it on March 25. This is so even when that would mean co-celebrating whatever other feast fell on that day even if it be Easter Sunday or Good Friday. The Annunciation - Incarnation is integral to each of our other feasts. And it does not take a lot of reflection to see the relationship between them.
Easter Sunday always falls between the dates
March 22nd and April 25th inclusive. In our current liturgical
calendar when March 25th falls
on a Lenten Sunday the Annunciation is always moved to the following
Monday. When March 25th
falls between Passion (Palm) Sunday and Easter
Wednesday inclusive (the latest possible day in the calendar) the
always moved to the eighth day after Easter.
Alternate Suggestion Plan 2
If that cannot be done,
then I suggest this feast be moved to a Sunday celebration each and every year,
The Solemnity could be celebrated on the Sunday that is closest to March 25th placing it between March 22nd and March 28th for most of the year. However, if the closest Sunday is Passion (Palm) Sunday or Easter Sunday, then the Solemnity would be celebrated on the Sunday following Easter. It would be celebrated on the same day as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Incarnation is so rich it has many facets.
I fear that many people do not value or take for granted the idea that God loves them. They fail to value the Sacraments and the Church and the truths God has revealed through her. Their thinking in some cases is, “So, I will get married for the third time and outside of the Church this weekend. God loves me. He understands.” Or “So, I will get an abortion tomorrow. I don’t need to go to the Sacrament of Confession. God loves me. He understands.” The price which was paid to win for us this grace needs to be contemplated to be appreciated.
Pope John Paul II had written an address that was given posthumously the day after his death on Divine Mercy Sunday. He shows how the foundation of our trust in God’s mercy is in our Father’s love for us.
The Father’s love, that He gave us his only Son knowing that He would suffer and die, needs to be contemplated so that we appreciate what is offered to us on Divine Mercy Sunday. By celebrating the Incarnation on Divine Mercy Sunday, or shortly before it, will help us appreciate the Father’s love and His Divine Providence.
Or See Alternative Suggestion.
Placing the Annunciation-Incarnation on the Sunday after Easter has enormous advantages. While Divine Mercy Sunday has a much needed and powerful message I believe that the message is not heard by many because they have fallen into a presumptuous way of thinking.
Many in the world today are not conscious of their own separation from God and how He established a Church to minister His preaching and Sacraments to reconcile them back to Him. Most people in the world today think of themselves as being a basically good person who is going to heaven regardless of whether they are going to Church or not. They are not murdering anybody, they are doing all those bad things that read about others doing. They think of themselves as being better than the standard that is presented to them in the press, or at least as good if not better than all those “hypocrites who go to church every Sunday.”
Many believe that they have earned heaven by being good, or at least that they are not so bad that a loving, merciful and soft God would send them to hell. Many are presumptuous about God’s mercy and they do not believe that they have to do anything to attain it. And this attitude prevents them from understanding and or appreciating the message of God’s mercy that is presented to them on Divine Mercy Sunday. Until we acknowledge that our sin separates us from God and that heaven is a gift that none of us could ever earn we cannot appreciate our need for His Mercy or His gift of it.
We need to discover His plan for our return to Him.
And so, by occasionally placing the Annunciation - Incarnation on Mercy Sunday we have the best opportunity to prepare them for that revelation. On the Solemnity of the Incarnation the Church has the opportunity to teach and to show how Jesus is the promised Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15. It is the perfect time to teach that God so loved the world that He sent His Son with a three fold mission, to Teach, to Rule, and to Sanctify.
By helping those who have come back to the Church at Easter time to realize that Jesus is a Teacher we are wetting their appetite to learn what God wants to teach us on Divine Mercy Sunday.
This suggestion to move the Annunciation to a Sunday would keep it between March 22nd and April 11th and thereby keep it within the normal pregnancy period of 38 weeks plus or minus a couple of weeks (March 20th to April 17th.) When Easter falls on April 5th or later - almost two thirds or 64.8% of the time - the Annunciation and Conception would fall on the nearest Sunday, i.e. within three days of March 25th, between the dates March 22nd and March 28th.
Making room in the Liturgical Calendar
Adopting this suggestion would mean that the Annunciation would be celebrated on the 3rd, 4th, 5th Sunday of Lent or the Sunday after Easter. So, one of those Sunday readings would be displaced on a given year, but it would vary from one year to the next so that none of the Liturgical readings would be completely displaced. So, there would be no need to make any major changes to our Liturgical Calendar other than those mentioned.
Its latest celebration would be on April 18th. This is one day beyond the time span of pregnancy of 38 weeks plus or minus a couple of weeks from conception to birth. Counting backward from December 25th gives the corresponding window of March 20th to April 17th. The Solemnity would only land on April 18th when Easter fell on April 4th. This only happens 3.2% of the time. However, even this late date still falls within what “The World Health Organization defines normal term for delivery.” In fact, even at this shortest possible time span between the Annunciation and Christmas under the proposed plan presented here, a woman would have been defined as being “at term” a full six days prior to delivery. See reference.
When Easter comes earlier than April 4th the second Sunday after Easter is the 17th or before. When Easter comes after April 4th then the nearest Sunday to March 25 is always one of the Sundays that precede Passion (Palm) Sunday.
Although celebrating the Annunciation and Incarnation-Conception Sunday on April 18th falls one day outside of the range of 38 weeks plus or minus two weeks it has a distinct advantage. Currently our culture has a very distinct prejudice against motherhood. Every pregnant mother anxiously counts down the days of her confinement. What mother would not be relieved and overjoyed to have her period of confinement reduced by a day? The symbolic reducing by the Church of Mary’s “confinement” by one day could be a symbolic jester to how the whole Church should value and cherish and assist mothers especially during their pregnancy.
On the other hand, if celebrating the Annunciation and Conception Sunday on April 18th is an insurmountable obstacle, then when Easter falls on April 4th the celebration for the Annunciation and Conception could be pushed back to the Sunday prior to Passion (Palm) Sunday on March 21st.
The proposal of Alternate Plan 2 does move the feast more frequently, but it moves it to a prominent yearly Sunday celebration in a simple consistent manner. It is still tied to the March 25th date although less strictly, so that its much needed message is heard by those who most need to hear it. And when March 25th falls on a Lenten Sunday the Annunciation will stay on March 25th, unlike our current system.
To see how these percentages above are
calculated see the
1. This proposed plan would enhance our Lenten celebration by providing us with two prefect examples, Jesus and Mary, who gave up worldly pleasures to give themselves entirely to God the Father and His plan even when much suffering ensued. Read more on Lent.
2. It provides a more enhanced liturgical opportunity to prepare the Catechumens for their reception of Christ coming into their world. Read more on Easter.
3. It would lay the bed rock foundation for Marian devotion on how Jesus united Himself to Mary, as we meditate on how God incorporated Mary into His plan of salvation for us. Read more on Mary.
4. It would make the unmistakably clear point of how human life begins at fertilization (or conception according to the traditional definition) and thus make an obvious pro-life message without even using the emotionally charged words such as abortion, etc. That point being made by implication could reach those who have built up defense mechanisms and become closed minded when they hear explicit pro-life terminology and arguments. Read more on Pro-Life.
5. The implementation of this plan provides a simple consistent liturgical calendar that would tap into the powerful message of this feast on a yearly basis. And most importantly, it would greatly benefit the vast majority of Catholics who only attend Sunday Mass and never celebrate this feast according to today's calendar.
6. By reflecting on Jesus’ and Mary’s yes to God the Father and His plan for them and how their love that made that yes possible we can greatly aid all the faithfully to reflect on their own vocation and its importance. Read more on Vocations.
7. Jesus' and Mary's yes to the Father provides us with the key to handling our own crosses in life, a deep love for the Father and trust in His most perfect will as to what is best for us even when some cross ensues.
8. With the rise of Islam in Western Europe and America it would seem advantageous to have a Sunday devoted to the distinctively Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.
9. There is no more powerful means of fighting the satanic forces of abortion than by celebrating the liturgy that honors the Author of Life when He took on a human life.
10. Even if the priest never made the connection between this feast and its Pro-Life implications the laity will figure it out.
Just as the Church (in North America, in most of the states) moved the Feast of the Ascension, forty days after Easter, to a Sunday in order to help the whole congregation to focus on and to draw upon its theological importance, the Church has all the more reason to consider moving the Annunciation and Incarnation to a Sunday celebration.
There are two other problems with
our current situation.
Second, the current title, “The Annunciation of our Lord” does not readily call to mind its connection to Christmas. (The catechetical development of many Catholics is not that great.) And the lack of devotion to this particular liturgical day because of the above reasons of its irregular and obscure weekday celebration make the realization of the connection to Christmas harder to recognize and to remember.
Regardless of whether we keep the current calendar or accept the proposal stated here this feast is going to be moved from the March 25th date on a somewhat regular basis. Therefore, it behooves us to consider the proposed name change below to make this connection to Christmas more obvious.
A New Name for the Solemnity
Proposed new Name for this Solemnity :
Annunciation to the Virgin Mary and
Or abbreviated as “Annunciation and Conception”
or “Annunciation and Incarnation”
The mystery of the Annunciation and Incarnation is so powerful and theologically rich the Church might want to consider renaming the Solemnity of “The Annunciation of the Lord” to make some of these deeply needed truths more obvious. I suggest two considerations.
In old calendars this feast has been called Festum Incarnationis, and also Conceptio Christi, among other titles.
Previously the title focused on Mary while now the focus is on Christ as the Annunciation of our Lord, even though it is a “Marian” feast. I suggest a new title that refers to both, Christ and how He works in and through Mary. Please read the section on Mary explaining why I believe this would both help better explain who Christ is and his plan of salvation for us as well as help explain and instill a greater Marian devotion.
When the average Catholic is asked, “When does the Church celebrate the coming of Christ?” they will almost always say Christmas and ignore or forget about the Annunciation. And this is quite understandable since our Sunday liturgy tends not to emphasize the Annunciation and since most Catholics neither go to daily Mass nor do they make the conscious connection between the Annunciation and Christmas nine months later. (Actually the gestation period for humans is 38 weeks, not nine months.)
So, it is essential that we help them make this connection for them to be deeply influenced by the strong implication of this Solemnity, which is that human life begins at conception. Therefore, in addition to moving the Solemnity of the Annunciation to a Sunday, I propose that this feast be given a new name to make its “9 months - or rather its 38 weeks” connection with Christmas more obvious, regardless of whether or not the homilist draws out this point.
The following title is long, but when we consider the number of
Catholic girls getting an abortion, it seems worth the sacrifice. Of
course, the evangelistic advantages of this new name go far beyond
just the Pro-Life objectives.
Proposed new Name for this Solemnity :
Annunciation to the Virgin Mary and
Or abbreviated as “Annunciation and Incarnation”
All of us would do well to meditate on the beauty, the significance, and power that this Solemnity, and this infinite Truth, has to offer. This feast contains in its very nature the answers to many of society’s errors and lies. And those who don’t go to daily mass are perhaps those most vulnerable to those lies and therefore are in most need to hear and meditate on its message. The benefits of moving it to Sunday are enormous because it is only on Sunday that most people will be in a position to recognize its connection to those truths including its connection to Christmas.
So, in conclusion, the adoption of this proposed change to the liturgical calendar as well as the new title for this feast – unlike our current calendar – will make the connection between this Solemnity and Christmas obvious to every one, and it will be made known every year. The opportunity to celebrate and draw from the richness of the Annunciation and Incarnation only comes once a year.
And so we have the following questions:
Would it benefit the Church to increase her celebration and reflection on the mysteries revealed by the Annunciation and Incarnation? and
What would be the most effective method of helping the average Catholic to reflect on those mysteries? and
Would the Church be able
to emphasize this celebration by changing our current calendar which
presently makes the Annunciation a somewhat obscure feast by Never
celebrating it on a Sunday ?
This section has been moved to it own page at
See responses to:
Since the early church did not
place the Solemnity of the Annunciation on a Sunday and the Incarnation
was not a liturgical feast at all, should we not maintain that tradition
that was passed down to us?
To see how these years are calculated see my
The ideas submitted here are so that the Church may decide their merits. And of course, all faithful Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead the Church the way God sees as best.
Thanks to Rev. Fr. René Butler, M.S., for his help in research.
All comments, criticisms, or suggestions are most welcome. Please E-Mail.