Today we celebrate the Annunciation. . . two weeks late. Having just celebrated the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection during Holy Week and the Easter Octave, we now take a step back to the event which made it all possible, Christ taking on human flesh at the Annunciation.
The Church gives us a full week to meditate upon Christ’s saving Passion during Holy Week, and another full week, plus the eighth day, to meditate upon his conquering of death during the Easter Octave. This is as it should be, as these are the events which gained our salvation. It is right and just, therefore, that the celebration of the Annunciation makes way for these Paschal celebrations. Today, after having meditated on Christ’s suffering and triumph over death, we finally get to celebrate the Annunciation, which is normally celebrated on March 25.
This provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the connection between the two sets of mysteries. Christ, from the moment of his conception, was destined for the events of Holy Week. Two thousand years later, we share in his victory and reflect on his Passion knowing the outcome. His Blessed Mother, however, waited thirty-three long years to see the fruits of her labors. From the moment of her Fiat, Mary knew that her Son was destined for the cross. Many parents know the loving sacrifice of raising a child, but the suffering of Mary is unique. Mary poured her heart and soul into raising her Son, God’s only-begotten Son, knowing that it would all lead to the cross. She gave completely of herself for his sake, as only a mother can, to prepare him for the suffering which awaited him.
When Mary looked upon her Son, hanging on a tree, perhaps her mind turned to the events of today, the moment she said yes to the angel Gabriel. She knew her Son would suffer, and she knew she would suffer as well, yet she assented to Gabriel’s message and loved her Son with her whole heart. Now gazing upon the cross, recalling a lifetime of the purest love between the Immaculate Heart of the Mother and the Sacred Heart of the Son, she sees Simeon’s prophecy fulfilled, her own heart being pierced.
How fortunate we are to know the whole story. When we venerate the cross on Good Friday, we do so aware of Christ’s suffering but also aware of its saving power. Our salvation was made possible by the Incarnation, by Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation. If Mary had not said yes, Christ would not have been born. If Christ had not been born, he could not have offered himself for our salvation. These events, those of Holy Week and those of today’s feast, all depended on Mary’s Fiat. These feasts come together to gain for us our salvation through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. What a gift it is to be able to reflect on the Annunciation today, two weeks late, and yet right on time.
Image: Robert Campin, Annunciation