Are you expecting?
Well you should be; as nine months from now the Church will be celebrating the birthday of her Lord. Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, as some will point out the “real” feast of the incarnation – when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This holy day is placed, quite logically, nine months before Christmas Day. If you thought radios and shops playing Christmas music in early November is excessive, how about starting the countdown clock nine months early? 😉
Simply realizing that the Annunciation is celebrated at an appropriate time of the year relative to Christmas can give one a newfound appreciation for this holiday. But there is more.
There was also an ancient belief that great persons died on the same day they were conceived – there was a sort of symmetry to their lives. (Perhaps this was more of a poetic assertion than an actual biological belief, I don’t know.) Whateverso, the Annunciation, March 25th, is often very close to Holy Week and Easter, the sequence of days that commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. A couple years ago March 25th was Good Friday itself, perfectly lining up our Lord’s conception with his death.
Liturgically, this means we hold off (or transfer) celebrating the Annunciation to the Monday after the Sunday after Easter Day, rather than celebrating it during Holy Week or Easter Week. But it is worthwhile to note, in those years, the confluence of liturgical events.
This year, with a later Easter, the Annunciation gets to stand on its own date quite unaffected by the Holy Week schedule and goings-on. The season of Lent is still around us, of course, still giving an ominous sort of context to this celebration. Just as Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so is this holy day overshadowed by the Lenten season, reminding us of the dire destiny of Mary’s newly-conceived son. This, more than Christmas, is perhaps a better time to sing those songs about how Jesus was born in order to die on the Cross. Christmas is a festal holiday and season in its own right, we don’t need to drown its joy in reminders of Good Friday; the Annunciation however is much more ripe for that combination of moods.
Also, one last reminder: this is a holy day, a Red Letter Day, a major feast day. And that means your Lenten fasts and disciplines are suspended for the day. Go and celebrate the obedience of our Lady and the conception of our Lord!