Lady Day and Good Friday – Of the Angels’ ‘Ave’ and the ‘Consummatum est’.

Today, 25 March 2016, is simultaneously the Feast of the Annunciation and Good Friday.  Liturgically we celebrate the Annunciation later.

In ancient times there was a tradition that Christ died on the 8th day before the Kalends of April: 25 March.  The idea that Christ died gave up the ghost on the day He took our flesh is certainly as beautiful as it is fitting.

How poignant it would have been also for Mary.

Mary said “Yes.” on the day of the Annunciation.  “Fiat” was her prayer.  That day the Incarnation took place as the Son took our humanity into an indestructible bond with His divinity.  Christ’s life began in the private darkness of the womb.  Soon after Salvation was born into the light of the world.

Mary said “Yes.” on the day of her Son’s death.  “Fiat” was her prayer.  That day the Incarnation was temporarily broken, as His human soul and body were sundered.  Christ’s life ended in the public darkness of the biblical tenebrae.  Soon after Salvation was accomplished with a burst of light at the Resurrection.

Good Friday rarely falls on Annunciation, Lady Day.  Lately it occurred in 1910, 1921, 1932, 2005, and today.  It’ll be a long time before the next time: 2157.

It also occurred in the year 1608. That day, the poet John Donne, one of the Metaphysical Poets, penned a magnificent poem.  He contrasts the two experiences of our Lady.

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day.  1608

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who’s all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall,
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angels’ Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go;
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or ‘twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

Another poet, George Herbert wrote a poem in Latin reflecting on our life through Christ’s death:

In Natales et Pascha Concurrentes

Cum tu, Christe, cadis, nascor ; mentemque ligavit
Una meam membris horula, teque cruci.
O me disparibus natum cum numine fatis !
Cur mihi das vitam, quam tibi, Christe, negas ?
Quin moriar tecum : vitam, quam negligis ipse,
Accipe; ni talem des, tibi qualis erat.
Hoc mihi legatum tristi si funere praestes,
Christe, duplex fiet mors tua vita mihi :
Atque ubi per te sanctificer natalibus ipsis,
In vitam, et nervos Pascha coaeva fluet.

Christina Rossetti has this:

Good Friday
Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
  That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
   And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
   Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
   Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
   Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
   I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
   But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
   And smite a rock.

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18 Responses to Lady Day and Good Friday – Of the Angels’ ‘Ave’ and the ‘Consummatum est’.

  1. Back pew sitter says:

    This is such a beautiful parallel, I wish I’d contemplated it more beforehand. I just read a lovely post about it at Rotate, and my online searches led me to a beautiful passage from ‘The Mysteries of March’ by the UK’s exceptional theologian (alas, we have few, but this one more than compensates) Fr John Saward.

    Perhaps it was not a coincidence that the great St John Paul II lived through this exceptional Good Friday, just 9 days before he died in 2005. I do not expect to be alive when this occurs again

  2. JARay says:

    Thank you so very much for this post Father. I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Father Bartoloma says:

    Beautiful. I wish I had seen this post before I preached for Good Friday today!

  4. E.A. Bucchianeri says:

    Beautiful post Father!

    I couldn’t help but notice the rare occurence of the double-feast of the ‘Lily’ and the ‘Cross’ this year may have some signficance concerning the prophecies of Marie-Julie Jahenny (approved mystic) concerning the promised restoration of the French monarchy. There are no such things as a coincidence, and there are no ‘accidents’ in God’s creation.

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1357696820922503&id=321263001232562

    Wishing you a happy and blessed Easter!

  5. Nan says:

    I was at my Canonical parish, where we celebrated both the Annunciation and Good Friday. In his homily, Father said that although the dates rarely coincide, it is right that they’re celebrated together, citing the tradition that the perfect man, Christ, was born and died on the same day of the year. He said Mary’s fiat in response to the angel was on her behalf but that her fiat on the day of His death was on behalf of the Church.

    We processed around the Church with the cloth embroidered with an icon of Jesus, all passing beneath it before it was laid on the table, together with the Gospel, both of which were venerated, together with an icon of the Annunciation before we kissed the cross and were given the blessed bread.

  6. donato2 says:

    The Christina Rossetti poem really struck me. How often, including at today’s Good Friday liturgy, have I too felt like a stone.

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “George Herbert wrote a poem in Latin reflecting on our life through Christ’s death” with himself very concretely as instance, being born in the ordinary sense on Easter day, that year; “Cur mihi das vitam,” – as Creator and Sustainer – “quam tibi, Christe, negas ?”: He gives Himself up to be the Savior, and so, his Savior.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Ach: not ‘Easter day’, but, of course, ‘Good Friday’!

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “Liturgically we celebrate the Annunciation later.” How ancient a practice is that? Would that have been so, pre-1533 in England – and have continued so, despite everything? Is Donne attending to the fact of the date of the fixed Annunciation Feast in the Church’s calendar, rather than its celebration – or, rather, non-celebration and postponed celebration – in these unusual circumstances?

    The line “This Church, by letting these days join,” reads, in some manuscripts, “This Church, by letting these feasts join,” which may have been Donne’s first version, which he had passed around a bit, before having second thoughts about it being too paradoxical to call Good Friday a ‘feast’, even when he ha truly said, ” today / My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.”

  10. StWinefride says:

    Regarding Marie-Julie Jahenny, there is no evidence that she has any kind of Church approval. She mentions a purple scapular, which doesn’t exist, as protection during the “3 days of darkness”. There are other things about her life and mysticism that are suspect.

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

    A Blessed Easter to all!

  11. cwillia1 says:

    So the celebrations coincide again in 2157. The Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church is prepared! They published service books for Thursday evening and Friday evening with both celebrations integrated into single services. Fascinating how this is done. Might make a good final exam question for a graduate level course in the Byzantine typikon.

  12. Richard Duffield says:

    St Margaret Clitherow was martyred on 25th March 1586 which was both the Annunciation and Good Friday that year. Her Shrine is in St Wilfrid’s Parish in York where I am the Parish Priest. We had a “statio” there on our altars of repose walk.

    [Well done.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  13. E.A. Bucchianeri says:

    Hi “StWinefride”~ in response to your comment about Marie-Julie Jahenny:

    I’m sorry you were given misinformation. She was a stigmatist and mystic who was approved by her local bishop, Monseigneur Fournier, the Bishop of Nantes. So many of her prophecies have come true, and continue to come true it is astounding. I’ve had some graced experinces since I’ve starting wearing the Purple Scapular, and I’ve had people contact me saying others have been granted miraculous protection since they got their Purple Scapular.

    Furthermore, Marie-Julie was given so many warnings about our times. I will recommend two links where you and anyone else can download FREE PDF books for more information about Marie-Julie Jahenny and the sacramentals revealed to her:

    1) “Marie-Julie of the Crucifix: Stigmatist and Prophet”
    (Short book: her biography and some of her prophecies in a concise form, a good introduction.)

    http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/27868281-marie-julie-of-the-crucifix

    2) “We Are Warned: The Prophecies of Marie-Julie Jahenny”
    (EXTENSIVE texts of her prophecies and vistations from Heaven. Also includes all the Great Monarch and Angelic Pontiff prophecies from all the saints and mystics who foretold their coming as Marie-Julie was also granted extensive knowledge concerning their coming as well.)

    http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/15714842-we-are-warned

    I hope this helps to clear up the misunderstandings anyone may have concerning Marie-Julie Jahenny.

    God Bless.

  14. bookworm says:

    Prior to the institution of the Gregorian calendar, with Jan. 1 as the first day of the year, in England and its possessions in 1752, “Lady Day,” March 25, was the first day of the year, a day on which annual leases, court sessions and other public business commenced.

    Also, according to the “Easter legends and lore” section of Snopes.com, an old English rhyme states that “If Our Lord falls in Our Lady’s lap” — i.e., if either Good Friday or Easter, but particularly Good Friday, coincides with the Feast of the Annunication — “England will meet with a great mishap” sometime within the following year.

    http://www.snopes.com/holidays/easter/easterlore.asp

    Snopes cites two modern examples when this tradition seems to have verified: in 1910 (Good Friday on March 25) when King Edward VII died two months later, and in 1951 (Easter on March 25) when King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, died less than a year later in February 1952. They could have listed (but don’t) the London train bombings of 2005 (when Good Friday was on March 25) as another example.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    cwillia1,

    Very interesting, and quite a different approach from that of liturgically celebrating the Annunciation later! I wonder if it is distinctly Byzantine, or if it was once common, with the flexibility of celebrating later being a western development?

    It gives a different weight to Donne’s line about “letting these days join” (whether something like it was known to him or not).

  16. WYMiriam says:

    A few of my friends and I read Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God this year for Lent. I found there a couple of striking parallels between the first part of Christ’s life and the very last days of His life, that I had never heard or seen before:

    1. Mary’s “be it done to me according to thy word” (spoken to the angel) is echoed by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, not my will but Thine be done.”

    2. The child Jesus, when found in the temple of Jerusalem after being “lost” for three days, said to Mary, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” This was echoed — or, more accurately, brought to completion, when He told His Father, “I have accomplished the work that thou hast given me to do.” (Jn. 17:4, during the Last Supper)

    By the way, in case anyone’s curious, the Annunciation is celebrated on April 4 this year.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    WYMiriam notes, “By the way, in case anyone’s curious, the Annunciation is celebrated on April 4 this year.” Presumably, because this is the first opportunity after the Octave of Easter.

  18. WYMiriam says:

    Venerator, exactly so!