It's easy to get lost in the Church calendar. We remember Christmas, of course, and Easter. In our Anglican tradition Ash Wednesday, Lent, Pentecost, and Advent all are given a fair bit of attention. Here at All Saints we make a point to remember All Saints' Day (which makes sense) and in the broader culture we mark St. Valentine's and St. Patrick's Days, but sadly not for the Holiest reasons. But when we get past these big events the church calendar may grow opaque to many of us. There are so many Saint days for one: Last Thursday, for example, was the feast of St. Cuthbert of Lindesfarne. While I'm sure he was lovely I personally don't know him from Adam or St. Aiden, also of Lindesfarne, whose feast day is August 31.
So, it may be tempting to ignore the Church calendar almost completely, and I confess I've done a fair bit of that. But in doing so I've missed out on a wonderful rhythm of remembrance, wherein the story of the gospel is rehearsed throughout the year, year after year, and not just at Christmas and Easter.
And that leads us to considering March 25th, the day of the feast of the Annunciation. It's not a word I typically use every day and my initial instinct is to think that what it marks is something obscure and probably unimportant. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. On this day the Church has traditionally remembered the very beginnings of the life of Jesus, as it was recorded in Luke 1:26-38. The marvelous mystery of Gabriel coming to a young woman and telling her incredible news, she would have a child, and this child would be the Savior of the World.
Why March 25th? Well, here we see the rhythm of the year play out, here we are, with only nine months of shopping days until Christmas, and it is now that we remember Mary's encounter with the angel and her faithful humility. We remember today that the miracle of Christmas began with a young woman's willingness to be used of God. Today we remember that God the Son, enthroned from all eternity in glory, humbled Himself not just to be birthed by a virgin, but to be borne by a virgin for nine months in her womb. We remember that our redemption began in the smallest way, smaller than the child in the manger, here we remember the child developing month by month in the womb of his mother. We look at Mary and see the humble submission to God's will, we look to Christ and see his willingness to become the smallest of the small. We marvel at God's glorious ways among us, and the marvelous redemption He wrought through the humility of the blessed Mary and her most blessed Son.
In the Orthodox tradition this day is commemorated, in part, with this prayer (or Troparion) of St. Athanasius (whose day is May 2, incidentally):
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
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!
For further reading, on this particular feast, and as a resource for other feast days, you can visit this helpful website:http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/index.html.