The feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year.
More importantly, since it occurs 9 months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the Annunciation marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ – the moment that Jesus was conceived and that the Son of God became the son of the Virgin.
The festival celebrates two things:
1. God’s action in entering the human world as Jesus in order to save humanity
2. Humanity’s willing acceptance of God’s action in Mary’s freely given acceptance of the task of being the Mother of God
The Annunciation and the liturgy:
The story of the Annunciation has produced three important liturgical texts, the Ave Maria, the Angelus, and the Magnificat.
1. The angel’s greeting to Mary, which is traditionally translated as “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” (in Latin Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum) is the opening of the Ave Maria, and a part of the Rosary prayers.
2. The Angelus consists of three Ave Marias, together with some additional material. It is said three times a day in the Roman Catholic Church.
3. The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is the poem with which Mary responds to the Annunciation and celebrates the power of God.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You became Incarnate as man
in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
You, through whom the universe was created,
began your earthly course,
in the womb of a humble and chaste Virgin.
At the annunciation of this miracle,
Mary responded in faith:
“let it be done to me
according to your word.”
May we who are made new creatures
by your grace,
respond with such faith,
when you call us to your service. Amen
– – – prayer by David Bennett