Annunciation – help!

OLDIE PODCAzT: Annunciation.

This is the very Feast of the Incarnation.

Today we celebrate that moment when our Lord elevated our humanity by taking our human nature into an indestructible bond with His Divinity. In the Incarnation God opened for us the path to “divinization“, His sharing of something of His own divine glory with us in the eternal happiness of heaven.

In the sin of our First Parents, offending God and loosing so many of our gifts, the whole human race sinned. In justice a human being had to correct the offense, but such a correction was entirely impossible for a mere mortal human. Such a correction required the intervention of one who was both man and God.

In the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, made man, made Jesus the Lord and Savior, not only begins to save us from our sins in His earthly ministry, but begins also the mysterious revelation of man more fully to himself (cf. GS 22).

Part of the Lord’s mission was also to teach man more fully who He is in the beauty of His own Person. However, He did not begin to do this only from the beginning of His public ministry. He began this from the very moment of the Incarnation.

Remember: From the instant of His conception, the Word made flesh begins to teach man more fully who man is.

Light from Light sheds light on the dignity of man, God’s image, from the instant of conception, from man’s humblest beginning.

Here are the Collects for this beautiful Feast of the Annunciation, Lady Day.

Here are the “Opening Prayers” from both the older, traditional, extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and the newer, post-Conciliar, ordinary form.

You might discuss their differences, their respective strengths.

Deus, qui de beatae Mariae Virginis utero Verbum tuum,
Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti:
praesta supplicibus tuis;
ut, qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus,
eius apud te intercessionibus adiuvemur

O God, who desired Your Word to take flesh from the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary
the angel announcing it:
grant to your supplicants;
that we who believe truly in the Mother of God,
may be helped in Your sight by her intercessions

Deus, qui Verbum tuum in utero Virginis Mariae
veritatem carnis humanae suscipere voluisti,
concede, quaesumus,
ut, qui Redemptorem nostrum
Deum et hominem confitemur,
ipsius etiam divinae naturae mereamur esse consortes

O God, who wanted Your Word to take up
the truth of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
grant, we beseech,
that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,
may also merit to be the sharers of His divine nature

This is of new composition, though there is a reference here to Letter 123 Ad Eudociam Augustam – “De monachis Palaestinis” of St. Pope Leo I, “the Great” (+461).

“Fides enim catholica sicut damnat Nestorum, qui in uno domino nostro Iesu Christo duas ausus est praedicare personas, ita damnat etiam Eutychen cum Dioscoro, qui ab unigenito Deo Verbo negant in utero Virginis matris veritatem carnis humanae susceptam.”

O God, who willed that your Word
should take on the reality of human flesh
in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
grant, we pray,
that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,
may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature

Annunciation – help!
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19 Responses to Annunciation – help!

  1. pelerin says:

    Fr Z you have reminded us that today used to be known as Lady Day even in the secular world. In my old missal it was The Annunciation of Our Lady – hence the term Lady Day. However in England it now seems to be known as The Annunciation of the Lord and yet remains a feast of Our Lady.

    All the great masters’ paintings showing the Angel appearing to Mary always seem to carry the title of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I do wonder what prompted the change in the name of the Feast day and why this was done.

    (Shops here are out of swans already !)

  2. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    The Annunciation is now known as a feast of our Lord. I know of no post-reform liturgical book that refers to it as a feast of our Lady.

    Not that there is anything wrong with calling it Lady Day.

  3. Henry Belton says:

    Fr Z, please tell us about this painting.

  4. ehale says:

    Yes, please! Tell us who the artist is! My priest used this painting as a prop for a talk he gave recently, and I am curious!

  5. amenamen says:

    This painting of the Annunciation is by Henry Ossawa Tanner. He was an African-American from Pittsburgh, who studied in Philadelphia under the famous painter Thomas Eakins. He is most famous for his painting of “The Banjo Lesson.” He died in Paris in 1937.

  6. Corinne says:

    I think the Liturgy of St. Basil sums up the “reason” for the Incarnation and thus this Feast of the Annunication very well, a feast that originated in the East and was only recognized in the West in the 6th century. In the West (in my opinion) it seems we focus far too much on legalities and “appeasing” God in regards to the Incarnation. In the East this would have been (and still is) a foreign concept. From the Liturgy of St. Basil:

    “When man disobeyed Thee, the only true God who had created him, and was deceived by the guile of the serpent, becoming subject to death by his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself.”

  7. Fr. Basil says:

    Today is the beginning of our salvation,
    The revelation of the eternal mystery.
    The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
    As Gabriel announces the coming of grace.
    Together with him, let us cry to the Theotokos:
    Rejoice, O full of grace!
    The Lord is with you!

    Troparion of the Annunciation.

  8. OtherMary says:

    Happy Solemnity to all!
    With all due respect, and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, I have always been a bit disturbed by this image of Our Lady. In this picture, it appears that Our Lady is aroused from sleep and looks disheveled. Even her home looks messy, with the rug rumpled and not straight and her bedding sloppy. I had always been under the understanding that the angel found her at prayer or studying the Scriptures – and here it appears that she was roused from sleep.

    I find that many modern depictions of Our Lady, be it in works of art or writings about her life, tend to downplay her extreme holiness -her fullness of grace. People want to bring her down to their level, vs. striving to elevate their own level of holiness to be more like hers. Anyway – just my 2 cents. I know that with artwork, everyone is entitled to their opinions. I just wanted to bring this to people’s attention, as I see this “dumbing down” of Mary’s extreme virtue and an ongoing trend of “Mary minimalism”, and I think this is a perfect example.

  9. Andrew says:

    You might discuss their differences, their respective strengths.

    The two prayers are very similar in the first half. After that, the 1962 prayer implores the intercession of the One whom we believe to be truly the Mother of God, whereas the 2002 prayer implores God that we may become associated with the Redeemer’s divine nature, whom we profess to be both God and Man.
    Somehow I find it more appropriate to seek the intercession of the Genetrix on this day.
    I find the 2002 phrase “veritatem carnis humanae” more pleasing than the 1962 “carnem”.
    I don’t like translating “consors” as “sharer”. “Consors” refers to a member of the same family, same social circle, inheritance or some other close association. A “sharer” can be anybody who shares something. A partaker might also be used, but that might also be anyone.

  10. Bryan Boyle says:

    @OtherMary: I can see where you could see that. Perhaps; I think what we see can be conditioned (perhaps) by our reactions to what we have observed in other areas of our life. Not criticizing, mind you, just understand your viewpoint without necessarily agreeing totally.

    I don’t think that necessarily we should either (since this painting was done a long time before the ‘bauhaus’ minimalization of the images of our Faith were wrought in the 60s and forward) minimalize or over-assume. It’s like a priest once said: Christ was fully human (even more so than we…) and fully God. As such, though it’s not written, we can assume he enjoyed the company of friends and family, probably saw humor (I think there was a glimpse of that in, admittedly “The Passion”) in absurd situations, while fully being aware of His divinity, both natures not in conflict but in perfect harmony. Humor, for instance, properly expressed, is a gift from God, too. His humanity in no way detracts from His divinity; likewise the Blessed Mother’s favor and preservation from the stain of Original Sin in no way detracts from Her humanity, either.

    I actually find this painting quite drawing for a number of reasons: Mary, perhaps WAS awoken from her sleep. Not perfectly coiffed, a bit disheveled, fully vulnerable (aren’t we all?), faced with a messenger from God lighting up her chamber. I think, and this is my own opinion, while fully aware, could not help but be a bit anxious (Lk 1: 26-30). Sanctity notwithstanding…if Our Lady was fearful, how would WE react to such an event?

    Her ‘fiat’ said it all. And that, I think, is the image and thought this image illuminates for me, in spite of righteous fear of God, HIS will, not mine, be done.

  11. Centristian says:

    That really is a magnificent painting. The first thing that captivates me is the depiction of the angel as a narrow column of bright light as opposed to a winged man. Then see how humility, purity, reverence, fear, and obedience are all captured on Mary’s face. The spartan simplicity of her dwelling reminds me of a monastic cell, yet with the feminine touch (note the fabric screen that hangs as a backdrop to her simple bed). Marvelous. Very touching.

  12. albinus1 says:

    Add my name to the list of those thanking you for posting the Tanner painting. He is one of my favorite artists, since I discovered his work about 15 years ago while living in Philadelphia.

    I had always been under the understanding that the angel found her at prayer or studying the Scriptures

    At prayer, maybe; but the idea that Mary could have been “studying the Scriptures” is a notion that could really have arisen only after the development of the printing press and the more widespread literacy it engendered. It is far more likely that a 13-year-old peasant girl in 1st-century Palestine was illiterate; and in any case, it also unlikely that someone of her station in life could have had a copy of the Scriptures at home. When books were individually produced by hand, they were expensive and hard to get; only the wealthy could afford to put together a personal library.

    When I was younger I had trouble understanding the parable of the unjust steward — how could the master not notice that his invoices had been tampered with? Then it occurred to me — the master was probably illiterate, and relied on his steward to keep his books for him, and would accept that the invoices said what the steward said they did. Unlike the situation of slavery in American history, it was not at all unusual in the ancient world for a slave to be better educated and more literate than his master. In any event, we tend to take widespread literacy for granted; but before the advent of the printing press made books cheaper and easier for ordinary people to get, literacy, at least beyond a very basic level, was probably much rarer than we imagine, even in the relatively sophisticated Greco-Roman world.

  13. 1. You can study the Scriptures without a book, or even without knowing how to read, if you have a good memory. Which people universally had, before reading and writing came in. St. Augustine mentions that his mother St. Monica studied Scripture solely from hearing it, and I seriously doubt that Mary was less interested in Scripture than she. Almost every practicing Jew seems to have known a good chunk of the Psalms by heart, just as later it seemed like most early Christians had the whole Psalter memorized and were singing good chunks of it every day. And I’m pretty sure most Jews could ponder the Messianic prophecy quotes without too much effort (which is traditionally what Mary is shown pondering in her book, in paintings, because it’s thematic).

    2. You can pray in bed. Indeed, the psalms assume that you might well stay awake praying all night on your bed, if my lousy literate memory serves. :)

    3. A good number of women in Israel apparently were literate and learned in the Scriptures, and certainly the Greco-Roman world was pretty happy to have as many literate people as possible, just for business purposes. I’m not saying you should believe everything you read in “The Proto-Evangelium of James”, here, but this is a world where Paul’s old teacher Gamaliel has his daughter’s wise saying quoted in the Talmud, and where Mary had priestly connections in the family. It would not be unheard of, if she could read, though certainly books were expensive and copying the Scriptures in Hebrew was a fraught process for a Jew. Still, if Mary could make out Greek, there seem to have been a good number of copies of Septuagint translations of individual books kicking around.

  14. Brooklyn says:

    Fr Z says – You might discuss their differences, their respective strengths.

    I find it interesting that one prayer puts the emphasis on Mary, while the other on our Lord. This morning I heard a very good talk on the radio by a priest regarding the Annunication, and he said that the only thing we really own is our free will. Everything else we have – our wealth, health, our very lives – can be taken away from us. But nothing and no one can take away our free will, and therefore, that is the greatest gift we can give to God. This priest said that the Holy Spirit will never impose His will upon us without our assent. That is what Mary shows us in her fiat. And that is what each and every one of us have to do as well – we have to give our assent to God. It all started with Mary because we receive Christ through her, as St. Louis de Montfort said and wrote so many times.

    Certainly this is also an important day to honor Our Lord. It is an amazing thing that the Great God and Creator of the Universe, the Sustainer of all life, the One who gives us every breath we breathe, deigned to make the womb of a young virgin into his temple and by doing so, become one of His own Creation. No other religion has such a God, because such a thing is inconceiveable (no pun intended) to the human mind – God becoming man and becoming man’s greatest servant. This is an amazing Feast day.

    Regarding the picture, I would have to agree with those who say that this is a beautiful representation. Mary looks so real, so small and vulnerable, and certainly she would not be able to understand what was happening to her, and this picture conveys that perfectly. But yet, she has such complete trust in her God that she says yes. Our Blessed Mother is our greatest model. She lives her life in complete faith and trust in God. I pray to her every day that I will one day achieve that as well.

  15. Centristian says:

    “You might discuss their differences, their respective strengths.”


    O God, who desired Your Word to take flesh from the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary
    the angel announcing it:
    grant to your supplicants;
    that we who believe truly in the Mother of God,
    may be helped in Your sight by her intercessions.

    O God, who wanted Your Word to take up
    the truth of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
    grant, we beseech,
    that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,
    may also merit to be the sharers of His divine nature.


    I suppose in the first place I wonder why “to take flesh” in the ’62 becomes “to take up the truth of human flesh” in the new Missal. It’s clear what “to take flesh” means, but not clear to me what “to take up the truth of human flesh” means.

    “Grant to your supplicants.” Why can’t we use words like “supplicants” in the liturgy, anymore? Anglicans live for that sort of thing; why must modern Catholics be so averse to lovely language?

    “…that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,” seems to me to better express the event commemorated than does “who believe truly in the Mother of God.” I realize that “Mother of God” essentially says it, but the other way, I think, says it more clearly.

  16. Brad says:

    The 2002 version saddens me greatly, especially reading it today, after having attended a special solemnity Mass. This letter version strips a lot of hyperdulia, which to me is pointless, ugly cruelty:

    1) “blessed” is gone: cruel
    2) “supplicants” is gone, implying to me that it evinced too much poverty of spirit
    3) the last two lines replace the focus upon Mary as advocate, mediatrix and perhaps even co-redemptrix with a focus on her Son. We know all power is his, but we also know that he as her Son, together with her Father and her Spouse have lavished enormous queenly powers upon her — with no egotism about having done so! Why, oh why, the rewrite, triply so on today of all days. Cruel.

    Oh Mary, forgive us! We are cruel to you, even you!

    Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum! Benedicta tu in mulieribus, vas insigne devotionis!

  17. The Cobbler says:

    Now I know where Lewis got his image of the eldil in Ransom’s house.

    Granted, Gabriel here is upright in our space; possibly something he picked up from familiarity with a world to which he was messenger, or possibly time and space were so ordained that the region was aligned with the higher plane around AD 1.