It seems odd that we are in Easter season and already we are thinking about Advent and Christmas; however, today is the celebration of the Annunciation, the celebration of the day when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she would bear the Christ. The narrative reads as such:
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”34″How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”38″I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
The Annunciation has been celebrated and written about in all kinds of literature and tradition. Here is John Donne‘s poem by the same name (ht: James Hill):
“Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo ! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh,
which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived;
yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb. ”
Ironically, this year, the day of John Donne and the Annunciation fall on the same day of the calendar of the Episcopal lectionary. Also, in Eastern Orthodoxy, Mary is referred to as Theotokos (Θεοτόκος=”God bearer”). The traditional Eastern Orthodox Troparion (hymn for the day) of the Annunciation is(ht:Wiki):
“Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And 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!”
And did you know that the Annunciation is also in the Quran?
So may you today begin the process of reflecting on the birth of vision and hope, grace and peace, and yes, even the pains of child birth that is to come. Or, as my friend Canon Ted Karpf reminded us yesterday at Holy Trinity Church, may you re-discover “what it means to live an Easter faith in a Good Friday world.”