Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ecce Ancilla Domini: The Annunciation

“Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by His cross and passion be brought to the glory of His resurrection.” (Collect for the feast day of The Annunciation, Book of Common Prayer)

Robin Williams, actor, comedian and an Episcopalian, set off a tongue-in-cheek train of thought some time ago with his “Ten Top Reasons for Being an Episcopalian,” one of which was, “The church year is color-coded.”

Today, March 25, is a “white” or festival day in that color-coded year, the feast day of The Annunciation --- a celebration of the promise of Christ’s conception and a break from the purple of Lent, precursor to the red of Holy Week, then festival white again for Easter and the season that follows it.

The same color-coded year is operational to one degree or another in all liturgical expressions of Christianity, less so or absent among denominations that prefer to focus on the essence of the faith without the embroidery of tradition and tend not to have altars and therefore altar cloths and vestments that change seasonally.

You will note that March 25 falls precisely nine months before Dec. 25, or Christmas Day, when in fact we don’t know the precise date upon which Jesus was either conceived or born. So obviously tradition is at work. I’m an embroidery man myself in a distinctly Protestant way, however, and find the color-coding a useful tool.

Color-coded or not, the church high and low is united within what seems an increasingly post-Christian culture to celebrate the central points of the Annunciation --- God’s physical entry in human form into the messy and often dangerous flesh-and-blood world to offer hope and the promise of salvation; and the faithful accession of Mary the virgin to the will of God as announced by an angel.

As Christians, we confess that the Holy Sprit works in our lives and each day holds the promise of personal annunciations if we pay attention. It’s up to us whether or not we accede.

Intersting stuff to think about on a “white” day.


The feast day of The Annunciation still is known sometimes as Lady Day, for obvious reasons, in England where it once marked the start of spring and also of the new year until 1752 when by an act of Parliament that was operative over here in the colonies, too, we switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

That process involved losing 11 days and so those around at the time who went to bed on the evening of Sept. 2, 1752, awoke on the morning of 14th of September 1752 And we think the switch from Central Standard to Daylight Saving Time is confusing.

Genealogists are the folks most often plagued today by that darned shift from one calendar to another.

If you ancestor was born in Boston, let’s say, on what we would call the 5th of February 1730 you often will see that date expressed in print as Feb. 5, 1729/30, because at the time Feb. 5 fell during Julian 1729 while looking back at it from the Gregorian perspective, it actually fell in 1730.

Now how’s that for confusing?

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