In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:26–38
First, some administrative talk – this Feast Day is on March 25th – 9 months before December 25th – to have the church calendar honor the timeline of Mary’s pregnancy. However, when a Feast Day falls in Holy Week, the Day is shifted to the Monday after the second Sunday in Easter. March 25th was Palm Sunday this year, so Annunciation was moved to Monday, April 9th. I guess Mary is delivering before her due date this year (wink).
So, in this Eastertide Feast Season, kick it up a notch today – it’s the Feast of the Annunciation!
How to celebrate? I love this from The Cook’s Blessings by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965: ” [The Feast of the Annunciation}] forecasts the most important and blessed event in Church history. To many of us it is the assurance that, as the seasons follow each other in orderly procession, so Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, is slowly but surely on its way. The year is a great circle of days, and imaginative homemakers throughout the world have done modest but sincere homage to Annunciation Day by serving cakes, coffee rings, or cookies baked in wreath shapes.”
The church calendar as circle appeals to me, as does the idea of the circle of life – the death of winter become the rebirth of spring. The passage I picked from Luke above talks not only about Mary’s pregnancy, but her cousin Elizabeth’s – the tiny spark of life growing to fullness even when it seems impossible – Mary is a virgin and Elizabeth is barren – how appropriate to the season (who can look at a seed and imagine the flower, the fruit, the food about to grow? It seems impossible!) and to our faith – these tiny steps we take in prayer, in ritual, in starting over and over – they are growing to fullness. Who can imagine? It seems impossible! How often do we feel inadequate or barren in our faith, and yet, it grows.
In my house on this day, I bake a bundt cake (circle), I wash our front door (it’s finally spring!) and put up our spring wreath. You could use any “ring” recipe, or even get fancy and do a ring mold for a spring salad or jello or something.
Mary is also often described with smells and seasonings: “exalted like a cedar in Libanus, a cypress tree on Mt. Sion, a palm in Cades, a rose plant in Jericho; a fair olive tree by the water, a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm, a sweet odor like the best myrrh.” (from the Catholic Mass of the Assumption, which isn’t in the Episcopal calendar – but what imagery!). Diffusing essential oils in those scents, or making spicy cookies with cinnamon would be appropriate to my mind.
Enjoy this Feast. Enjoy this Spring. Anticipate what is to come, and what will come again.