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The Annunciation (anglicised from the Latin Vulgate Luke 1:26-39 Annuntiatio nativitatis Christi), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning "Saviour". Many Christians observe this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus. According to Luke 1:26, the Annunciation occurred "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist. Irenaeus (c.130-202) of Lyon regarded the conception of Jesus as 25 March coinciding with the Passion.
Approximating the northern vernal equinox, the date of the Annunciation also marked the New Year in many places, including England, where it is called Lady Day. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold that the Annunciation took place at Nazareth, but differ as to the precise location. The Basilica of the Annunciation marks the site preferred by the former, while the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation marks that preferred by the latter.
In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in the book of Luke, Luke 1:26-38:
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
A separate annunciation, which is more brief but in the same vein as the one in Luke, is given to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-21:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
In Eastern Christianity Mary is referred to as Theotokos (Θεοτόκος="God-bearer"). The traditional Troparion (hymn for the day) of the Annunciation which goes back to Saint Athanasius of Alexandria 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, celebrated March 25, is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the church year, and is among the eight of them that are counted as feasts of the Lord. As the action initiating the Incarnation of Christ, Annunciation has such an important place in Orthodox Christian theology that the festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on the feast, even if it falls on Great and Holy Friday, the day when Christ's Crucifixion is remembered. Indeed, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Great and Holy Friday only when the latter coincides with the feast of the Annunciation. If the Annunciation falls on Pascha (Easter Sunday) itself, a coincidence which is called Kyriopascha, then it is celebrated jointly with the Resurrection, which is the focus of Easter. Due to these and similar rules, the rubrics surrounding the celebration of the feast are the most complex of all in Orthodox Christian liturgics. The Annunciation is called Euangelismos (Evangelism) in Greek, literally meaning "spreading the Good News".
St. Ephraim the Syrian taught that the date of the conception of Jesus Christ fell on 10 Nisan on the Hebrew Calendar, the day in which the passover lamb was selected according to Exodus 12. Some years 10 Nisan falls on March 25, which is the traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation and is an official holiday in Lebanon.
The feast of the Annunciation is usually held on March 25; it is moved in the Catholic Church, Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars when that date falls during Holy Week or Easter Week or on a Sunday. The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches do not move the feast, having special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another feast; in fact in these churches a Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Good Friday when it coincides with the Annunciation.
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 Catholic theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ. The first certain mentions of the feast are in a canon, of the Council of Toledo (656), where it is described as celebrated throughout the church., 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 various works of which the earliest surviving manuscripts are later and may have been added to.
The Annunciation in the Qur'an
The Annuciation in Qur'an explains that the angel Gabriel (two angels in another part of Qur'an) announced to Mary that She will have Jesus. The Annunciation is also described in the Qur'an, in Sura 003:045 (Al-i-Imran – The Family of Imran) verses 45-51 (Yusuf Ali translation):
45Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;"
Annunciation in Christian art
The Annunciation has been one of the most frequent subjects of Christian art. Depictions of the Annunciation go back to early Christianity, with the Priscilla catacomb including the oldest known fresco of the Annunciation, dating to the 4th century. It has been a favorite artistic subject 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 angel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of Roman Catholic Marian art, where the scene is also used to represent the perpetual virginity of Mary via the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.
Works on the subject have been created by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Duccio, Jan van Eyck, 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.
- Purity is a wider concept than Virginity, which is comprised within it, but which relates to a physical aspect only of purity
- Medieval art: a topical dictionary by Leslie Ross 1996 ISBN 0-313-29329-5 page 16
- The Gospel according to Luke by Michael Patella 2005 ISBN 0-8146-2862-1 page 14 
- Michael Alan Anderson, Symbols of Saints (ProQuest 2008 ISBN 978-0-549-56551-2), pp. 42–46
- Speaking the Truth in Love: Theological and Spiritual Exhortations by John Chryssavgis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomu 2010 ISBN 978-0-8232-3337-3 page 85
- "Feast of the Annunciation". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Quran 2:185
- The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture by Peter Murray and Linda Murray 1996 ISBN 0-19-866165-7 page 23
- Images of the Mother of God: by Maria Vassilaki 2005 ISBN 0-7546-3603-8 pages 158–159
- The Annunciation To Mary by Eugene LaVerdiere 2007 ISBN 1-56854-557-6 page 29
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Annunciation.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article The Annunciation.|
Gabriel announces John's birth to Zechariah
Mary visits Elizabeth