April 12, 2018
During this past week, there was a Holy Day on the calendar: Annunciation of Our Lord. Will you say more about this day?
There are a few things to say about this Holy Day. Curiously, this is a fixed date feast which is to be celebrated on March 25. This year it was celebrated on April 9. What is going on here?
The Feast of the Annunciation (aka. Solemnity of the Annunciation, Lady Day, or Conceptio Christi, the conception of Christ) is a universal feast of the church, being celebrated especially in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions, We know that the day was on the calendar of special days of the Church by early 4th century. The feast os also mentioned in Canon of the Council of Toledo in 656 and in the Canon of the Council of Constantinople in 692. The importance of the feast is discernable in the efforts made under two traditions, Eastern and Western, to celebrate it.
The date of March 25, in case you did not notice, is precisely nine months prior to December 25. Yes, that would make it a gestation period long, in order to coincide with the Feast of the Nativity (i.e. Christmas Day). That date in March also coincides with the Vernal Equinox in the Northern latitudes of Europe, the date when there are equal periods of daylight and darkness (March 20 of this year being the beginning of spring but not necessarily exactly equal periods of light and dark). For you, modernists, no, the date chosen by the Church would not be the average weekly gestation period of 40 weeks that we now know it to be.
On the issue of the date's importance, in the Orthodox, or Eastern traditions, The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25, even if March 25 also coincides with the date of Easter. If both Easter and the Feast of the Annunciation occur on the same date it is called Kyriopascha. It also is celebrated if it happens on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday. This exception is also granted for Sunday's in Lent, where the disciplines allow for celebration of the Eucharist, even during this period of special devotion.
The Western Church treated this Feast slightly differently. Even though Sundays supersede the fast days of Lent, and hence the 46 days of the season which begins on Ash Wednesday in order to account for days of Sunday feast observance. That means if March 25 occurs during Holy Week, the annunciation is not celebrated until the first appropriate day after Easter Week, hence, our celebration this year on 9 April.