Definitions

Annunciation

Annunciation

[uh-nuhn-see-ey-shuhn]

In Christianity, the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμός της Θεοτόκου, Evangelismós tēs Theotókou in Greek) is the revelation to Mary, the mother of Jesus by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. Some Christian churches celebrate this with the Feast of Annunciation on March 25, which as the Incarnation is nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus, or Christmas. The date of the Annunciation also marked the New Year in many places, including England (where it is called Lady Day). Both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths hold that the Annunciation took place in the then village of Nazareth, but differ as to where exactly. The Catholic Church of the Annunciation marks the site preferred by the former, while the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation marks that of the latter.

The annunciation has also been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The Annunciation in the Bible

In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in the book of Luke, Chapter 1, verses 26-38 (NASB):

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. 37For 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.

Eastern traditions

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:

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!"

The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the church year. As the action initiating the Incarnation of Christ, Annunciation has such an important place in Eastern Orthodox theology that the Festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on March 25, regardless of what day it falls on—even if it falls on Pascha (Easter Sunday) itself, a coincidence which is called Kyriopascha. The only time the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated on Great and Holy Friday is if it falls on March 25. Due to this, the rubrics regarding the celebration of the feast are the most complicated of all in Orthodox liturgics. The Annunciation is called Euangelismos (Evangelism) in Greek, literally meaning "spreading the Good News".

Related dates

In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgical calendars, the feast is moved if necessary to prevent it from falling during Holy Week or Easter Week. In the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches it may also be moved to prevent its falling on a Sunday. To avoid a Sunday before Holy Week, the next day (March 26) would be observed instead. In years like 2008 when March 25 falls during Holy Week or Easter Week the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after Octave of Easter, which is the Sunday after Easter.

It might be thought that with a very early Easter, the feast of St Joseph would be displaced from 19 March to the Monday after Easter week, thus displacing the Annunciation to the Tuesday. However, in the Roman Catholic calendar, if the Feast of St Joseph, normally falling on March 19, must also be moved as a consequence of Easter falling on one of its earliest possible dates, it is moved to an earlier rather than a later date. This will normally be the Saturday before Holy Week. (This change was announced by the Congregation for Divine Worship in Notitiae March-April, 2006 (475-476, page 96).) In the Church of England it is moved to the Tuesday after Easter Week, following the Annunciation on the Monday, which is of higher rank and takes precedence.

The Eastern churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental and Eastern Catholic) do not move the feast of the Annunciation under any circumstance. They have special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another feast. In these churches, even on Good Friday a Divine Liturgy is celebrated when it coincides with the Annunciation. One of the most frequent accusations brought against New Calendarism is the fact that in the New Calendar churches (which celebrate the Annunciation according to the New Calendar, but Easter according to the Old Calendar), these special Liturgies can never be celebrated any more, since the Annunciation is always well before Holy Week on the New Calendar. The Old Calendarists believe that this impoverishes the liturgical and spiritual life of the Church.

The date is close to the vernal equinox, as Christmas is to the winter solstice; because of this the Annunciation and Christmas were two of the four "Quarter days" in medieval and early modern England, which marked the divisions of the fiscal year (the other two were Midsummer Day, or the Nativity of St. John the BaptistJune 24—and Michaelmas, the feast day of St. Michael, on September 29).

When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25, since according to Christian theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ.

The first authentic allusions to it are in a canon, of the Council of Toledo (656), and another of the Council of Constantinople "in Trullo" (692), forbidding the celebration of any festivals during Lent, excepting the Lord's Day (Sunday) and the Feast of the Annunciation. An earlier origin has been claimed for it on the ground that it is mentioned in sermons of Athanasius and of Gregory Thaumaturgus, but both of these documents are now admitted to be spurious. A synod held at Worcester, England (1240), forbade all servile work on this feast day. See further Lady Day.

Annunciation in the Quran

Annunciation is also cited in the Quran, in Suras 3 (Aal 'Imran - The family of Imran) verses 45-51 and 19 (Maryam - Mary) verses 16-26, although without mentioning Jesus as the son of God.

From chapter 2

[45] (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allâh gives you the glad tidings of a Word ("Be!" - and he was! i.e. 'Isâ (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)) from Him, his name will be the Messiah 'Isâ (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allâh."[46] "He will speak to the people in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous."[47] She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me." He said: "So (it will be) for Allâh creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: "Be!" - and it is.[48] And He (Allâh) will teach him ('Isâ (Jesus)) the Book and Al-Hikmah (i.e. the Sunnah, the faultless speech of the Prophets, wisdom), (and) the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel).[49] And will make him ('Isâ (Jesus)) a Messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay, a figure like that of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allâh's Leave; and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by Allâh's Leave. And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a sign for you, if you believe.[50] And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurât (Torah), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allâh and obey me.[51] Truly! Allâh is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone). This is the Straight Path.

From chapter 19

[16] And mention in the Book (the Qur'ân, O Muhammad (peace be upon him) the story of) Maryam (Mary), when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.[17] She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our Ruh (angel Jibrîl (Gabriel)) and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.[18] She said: "Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Gracious (Allâh) from you, if you do fear Allâh."[19] (The angel) said: "I am only a Messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son."[20] She said: "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?"[21] He said: "So (it will be), your Lord said: 'That is easy for Me (Allâh): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allâh), and it is a matter (already) decreed, (by Allâh).' "[22] So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place (i.e. Bethlehem valley about 4-6 miles from Jerusalem).[23] And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said: "Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!"[24] Then (the babe 'Iesa (Jesus) or Jibrîl (Gabriel)) cried unto her from below her, saying: "Grieve not: your Lord has provided a water stream under you.[25] "And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you."[26] "So eat and drink and be glad. And if you see any human being, say: 'Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (Allâh) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.'"

Annunciation in art

The Annunciation is one of the most frequent subjects of artistic representation in both the Christian East and as Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and figures in the repertoire of almost all of the great masters. The figures of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of Roman Catholic Marian art.

Because the natural composition of the scene–two parallel figures, often elegantly clad–the subject was often employed in the decoration of a diptych or tympaneum (decorated arch above a doorway). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Annunciation is typically depicted on the Holy Doors (decorative doorway leading from the nave into the sanctuary).

In Roman Catholic Marian art scenes depicting the annunciations are also used to representthe dogma of perpetual virginity, via the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel that May would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.

Frescos depicting this scene have appeared in Roman Catholic Marian churches for centuries and it has been a topic addressed by many artists in multiple media, ranging from stained glass to mosaic, to relief, to sculpture to oil painting.

It has been of the most frequent subjects of Christian art particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The figures of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of many painters such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo de Vinci, Caravaggio, Duccio and Murillo among others. The mosaics of Pietro Cavallini in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome (1291), the frescos of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (1303), Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1486) and Donatello's gilded sculpture at the church of Santa Croce, Florence (1435) are famous examples.

See also

External links

Gabriel announces Mary's motherhood to Jesus
Life of Jesus: Conception of Jesus
New Testament
Events

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