Feast of Annunciation or Lady Day
It was no accident that Lady Day – the Feast of the Annunciation – started the year from around 6th century. March had been the first month of the year in Roman times but the feast of the Annunciation was placed near the vernal equinox – which had already slipped almost five days from its date in the Julian calendar. it was placed here not merely because it was conveniently nine months before Christmas but also because each year with spring’s renewal man was reminded of the each year of salvation’s renewal – each we called the year of the Lord – Anno Domin (AD) – began with the Annunciation. Salvation began with Mary’s assent – thus it was Our Lady’s Day – without her fiat there would have been no redemption. Mary spoke for us all as her sister Eve had spoken for us at the Fall.
The appearance of Gabriel and his greeting to Mary – Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with you – changed human history and each year it was meant at the start of a fresh year to offer us a chance to change our own story as it changed the story of Mary, forever. And forever echoing the great fiat lux uttered by God the Son ( The Word) at the beginning of creation – let there be light – Mary’s reply is couched in the same terms – fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum – let it be done unto me according to thy word. The two creative moments are therefore wrapped in the same singularity of the Word being made flesh. It is therefore traditional to kneel at these words and at the ‘et incanrantus est’ in the Nicene creed.
The greatest – or at least most widely said prayer of the medieval church – the Angelus – memorialises this moment when everything was changed. It was mum’s favourite prayer and we said it at Creena’s funeral mass. Mum actually died on the Feast of Mary the Mother of God – which is strangely fitting as every New Year I always remember her – and the Annunciation once held the same function for the Christian world.
In illo tempore: Missus est Angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis Maria. Et ingressus Angelus ad eam dixit: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus, et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait Angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum. Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium, et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum: hic erit magnus, et Filius Altissimi vocabitur, et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domo Jacob in æternum, et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad Angelum: Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco? Et respondens Angelus dixit ei: Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua, et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua: et hic mensis sextus est illi, quæ vocatur sterilis: quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
|The Annunciation, Visitation, the Birth of Christ and the Magi before Herod, from the Codex Aureus of Echternach ca. 1030; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany. Manuscript (Hs. 156142).|