Wherein Fr. Z muses about Lady Day, 25 March

"Cestello"Annunciation - Botticelli (1489-1490)

“Cestello”Annunciation – Botticelli (1489-1490)

This is one of my favorite Annunciations, though I quite like some modern versions as well. The angel – a mighty being by far exceeding our mere humanity – approaches Mary with great humility, placing himself below her. Note also the courtly, grace-filled gestures and postures, so typical of Botticelli and that era. The perspective, which points out of the window, lends a sense of endlessness, hence eternity. With this moment, all of history and creation are forever changed.

Sometimes in the history of our salvation the stars line up to portend amazing events.  These stellar alignments are sometimes literally stellar, as in the case of the Star of Bethlehem.  I, for one, buy the arguments for the Star made HERE (which also concerns what lined up with your planet’s yellow star on that first Good Friday).

Years line up, too.  Take the curious situation we face this year, when many portentous anniversaries are coincident.  It’s a bit unnerving.

But I digress.  This is about Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation.  This is the day when we celebrate the moment of the Incarnation.  Mary says her “Fiat” and the Eternal Word takes our humanity into an indestructible bond with His divinity.  From the instant of His conception, nothing would ever be the same again.  And so we celebrate 25 March – nine months before the Feast of the Nativity – with great attention.

This is the day there occurred that which drives us of the Roman Rite to our knees with great frequency.  In our traditional liturgical practice, we take a knee every time in the Last Gospel of Mass Father says: et verbum caro factum est… and the Word was made flesh.  We genuflect every time we sing in the Creed: et homo factus est… and he was made man. The Son, consubstantial with the Father from before creation, becomes consubstantial with His human Mother, with our humanity in the instant of the Incarnation after the Annunciatory Archangel’s announcement to Mary Annunciate that she would conceive… if she agreed.

One gets the impression that God gives us clues in the mighty whirling clock of the heavens.  After all, God knows how to do this stuff.  Had there been tiny variations in strong and weak nuclear forces in the fractions of a second after the beginning of material creation, if the Big Bang Theory is correct, and we wouldn’t be here.  God is precise. His precision in creation suggests that we should pay close attention to the celestial signs He puts in front of and above our faces.

It was the very moment when the “fullness of time” began.

How much did hang upon that momentary meeting?

The 25th of March has, through history, has been considered the most important day of the year. In ancient times it was thought that many events critical for our salvation took place on this same date.  Augustine posited that that Christ’s Incarnation, His Conception, as well as His Crucifixion, His Death, was on 25 March.  They also thought that God’s “Day of Rest”, the Eight Day after Creation was 25 March.  Moreover, the Hebrews crossing of the Red Sea (death and resurrection, the fall of man and his rising in baptism) and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (the two-fold prefiguring of Christ, priest and victim in one Person, ascending the hill to the altar/Cross) were on, yes, 25 March.

In other news, on this day, Frodo and Sam reached Mount Doom.  You know what happened next.

One gets the impression that God gives us clues in the mighty whirling clock of the heavens.  After all, God knows how to do this stuff.  Had there been tiny variations in strong and weak nuclear forces in the fractions of a second after the beginning of material creation, if the Big Bang Theory is correct, and we wouldn’t be here.  God is precise. His precision in creation suggests that we should pay close attention to the celestial signs – and calendrical coincidences – which He graciously puts in front of and above our faces.

 

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10 Responses to Wherein Fr. Z muses about Lady Day, 25 March

  1. G. Thomas Fitzpatrick says:

    Father, I was also looking at this Botticelli this morning. Courtly and graceful is the posture of Our Blessed Lady depicted here, indeed. My impression, as the Archangel Gabriel does not seem to have quite caught her attention yet (her eyes don’t seem to be focused on him, yet), is that she was interrupted while dancing. It is quite natural for a young lady to be practicing dancing. Many other depictions show her engaged in lectio with a book either in her hands or open in front of her. More modern versions often have the angel appear to her on waking.

    A blessed Lady Day!

  2. Kent Wendler says:

    I frequently think that the solemnity of the Annunciation should have at least equal liturgical importance to Christmas and Easter, because of those three “hinge points” of salvation history it is the only one that depended on the free will decision of a non-divine human being. The others depend solely on actions of God Who cannot “fail”. Mary could have refused, but by the super-abundant graces given her she did not. (Unlike Eve.)

  3. mpb says:

    Hi Fr. Z,
    Could you please explain two things? What are the many portentous anniversaries that are happening this year? Second, watching the star video was very interesting. I was just wondering if you had an answer to the claim that many make that the census that May and Joseph were a part of has yet to be found historically.

    Thanks

  4. Liam says:

    March 25 is also the date of Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre’s death in 1991.

    [Right! That day is burned into my memory, for reasons that I have recounted elsewhere.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. Imrahil says:

    Thanks again for the truly thrilling link to the Star of Bethlehem arguments.

    (The last page of it with its quite unnecessary and after such a story, if anything, counterproductive moralizing shows to me that the author has at least a touch of the evangelical Protestant. There was once a man who said “show, not tell”. But that’s just an aside.)

  6. Imrahil says:

    Dear Kent Wendler,

    I don’t think further action is needed given that the feast already has the rank of a first-class feast a.k.a. solemnity, which is the highest there is in the Church calendar, and because after all (though I may have grown a bit lazy with that of late), the Church recalls the Annunciation thrice a day, excepting only Eastertide. Oh, and on every Sunday in the Old Rite, people will hear the words “et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine, et homo factus est” and fall down to their knees.

  7. stephen c says:

    mpb – 1917 was the year the excruciating martyrdom of Christianity in Russia began (hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of martyred Christian saints); it is the year when the Soviets, who decided to enslave Christian countries across Eastern Europe, came to power; it is the year associated with the revelations of Fatima, which, as beautiful as any message from our blessed Mother might be, were (are) revelations which included prophetic descriptions of great travails in this world. I am missing a couple other portentous anniversaries, I am sure .

  8. Shamrock says:

    Father, sad to say, no parish to which I have belonged since Vat II genuflects at the points in the
    liturgy you mention. Also, with others here, I have always wondered why we do not celebrate in
    the Liturgical Year, the Incarnation with at least as much piety and devotion as the Christmas and Easter feasts. Without the Incarnation, neither Christmas nor Easter would seemingly have
    happened. You state here its prime importance, but it is barely mentioned as an important feast in all parishes I have belonged. ( I am nearly 80 years old). If you would, kindly share with us your thoughts on this matter. Also why se stopped genuflecting in the liturgy those places we
    always used to do before Vatican II?

  9. teomatteo says:

    The singular tree stands out to me. The tree Adam and Eve confronted and the tree Our Lady was to confront. Maybe i’m missing something.

  10. pannw says:

    mpb, to add to the events presented by stephen c, 2017 is also the 300th anniversary of the founding of Freemasonry, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Revolt. I also found it curious that the actual founding of the Communist Party was officially declared on November 8, 1917, and these US of A voted to reject Marxists on November the 8th, 2016 during the Year of Mercy. (a good sign, I’m hoping…) In addition, to me at least, the most unnerving thing about this year is the combination of the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s warnings at Fatima (in light of the 100years prophecy/vision? of Pope Leo XIII), and the Great Sign in the Heavens of Revelation 12, which is ongoing during this year (started on the very day the Year of Mercy came to a close) and culminating on September 23. Throw in Beloved Benedict XVI’s making St. Hildegard of Bingen a Doctor of the Church right before his abdication and the total eclipse of the Sun completely crossing the entire continental USofA, and unnerving is a bit of an understatement, to be completely honest. Eyes on Jesus!