Feast of Annunciation: Ave Maria.
FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION.
The feast of the Annunciation is on 25th March and it inevitably falls in Lent. This marks the day when Mary, as described in the Gospel of St Luke, was told by an angel that she was to be the mother of the Saviour. This is the day of the Incarnation, when Christ, the Son of God, arrived in his mother's womb.
Interestingly enough, the old English name for this day is "Lady's Day" and for centuries it was marked as the first day of the New Year: due to the fact the tax year ran from March to March each year. Of course, the Annunciation is exactly nine months before Christmas, signifying the time spend by Christ in the womb of Mary.
On a practical note, for those of us who had promised ourselves we were going to be organised for Christmas next year, why not connect this feast with a start of a Christmas shopping list.!!!! Shock horror, some might think of Christmas-when we have not yet celebrated Easter.
Nevertheless, reflecting on this feast and connecting it with Christmas, may provide a fresh impetus.
An old tradition says that the first Good Friday was also on 25th March, and so Christ was dying on the anniversary of the day on which he first arrived on earth.
WHAT DOES THIS FEAST MEAN FOR ME?
Apart from wanting to be organised for Christmas and connecting the two feasts of our salvation what does this feast also mean for me as a Christian?
God does not need his creatures because He is God. Yet, he desired Mary's yes and our yes to make His plan complete. Jesus invites us every moment of every day to say Yes to Him He gives us a choice just as Mary was able to say no too. Jesus never squashes our free will. In this time of Lent particularly, it is an ideal opportunity to become more aware of the opportunities we have to say yes to God.
Will we be willing to say Yes to God like Mary in what He asks of us?
BASILICA OF THE ANNUNCIATION IN HOLY LAND.
The church in Nazareth is one of the holiest Christian Sites. It stands in the site that was believed to be the house of Mary, where she was announced that she will give birth to Jesus in Luke 1: 26-38. To see some great photos of this Basilica click https://biblewalks.com/sites/annunciation.html
The towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth stands over the cave that tradition holds to be the home of the Virgin Mary.
The outcome of Mary’s consent is carved in Latin across the façade over the triple-doorway entrance: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
The massive two-storey basilica, in strikingly modern architectural style and colourfully decorated, became the largest Christian church in the Middle East when it was completed in 1969. It contains two churches, the upper one being the parish church for Nazareth’s Catholic community.
The cupola, which dominates modern-day Nazareth, is surmounted by a lantern symbolising the Light of the World.
Entry is from the west, where signs indicate a route for visitors. On the cream limestone façade are reliefs of Mary, Gabriel and the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Above them is a bronze statue of Jesus.
Over a door on the southern side stands a statue of Mary aged 14, welcoming all who come to visit her home.
The plan of two churches, one above the other and interconnected, was conceived by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio.
As well as preserving the remains of previous churches on the lower level, he allowed for the risk of earthquake by constructing the building in three separate sections of reinforced concrete.
The soaring cupola represents an inverted lily opening its petals to the shrine below. The symbolism combines the lily, as an image of Mary’s purity, with one of the Semitic meanings of the name Nazareth, a flower.
A spiral stairway at the main entrance leads to the large and spacious upper church. This is the parish church for the Catholic community of Nazareth (which is why the inscriptions on the ceramic Stations of the Cross are in Arabic).
The main entrance of the upper church is on the northern side, leading off a large elevated square overlooking the valley of Nazareth.
Around the walls of the upper church are colourful representations of the Virgin Mary in a variety of materials, presented by many countries.
Behind the main altar is a huge mosaic, one of the biggest in the world, depicting the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”.
The lower level of the Church of the Annunciation enshrines a sunken grotto that contains the traditional cave-home of the Virgin Mary.
The cave is flanked by remnants of earlier churches on the site. Its entrance is sometimes closed by a protective grille. Inside the cave stands an altar with the Latin inscription “Here the Word was made flesh”.
To the left of the cave entrance is a mosaic floor inscribed with the words “Gift of Conon, deacon of Jerusalem”. The deacon may have been responsible for converting the house of Mary into the first church on the site, around 427.
In front of the cave is another simple altar, with tiers of seats around it on three sides. Above it, a large octagonal opening is situated exactly under the cupola of the church.
MUSIC: AVE MARIA
There is a lot of music associated with the Virgin Mother= instrumental music, hymns and vocal works.
There are a number of Ave Maria's written by different composers. The 2 most famous ones are Schubert Ave Maria and Bach/Gounod Ave Maria. However, many composers have written an Ave Maria including Elgar and Arcadelt
BACH/GOUNOD AVE MARIA.
Ave Maria is a popular and much-recorded setting of the Latin prayer Ave Maria, originally published in 1853 as Meditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach. The piece consists of a melody by the French Romantic composer Charles Gounod that he superimposed over an only very slightly changed version of the Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from Book I of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, written 137 years earlier. There are different instrumental arrangements and solo recordings. Here is one recording for you to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzXOaQioeyc
SCHUBERT AVE MARIA
Schubert’s music was actually called ‘Ellens dritter Gesang’, which translates as ‘Ellen’s Third Song’. He wrote it in 1825, aged 28, to the words of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake. The song does contain the words ‘Ave Maria’, but only in reference to the prayer itself. Although originally written for another purpose, Ave Maria when sung with its latin lyrics is considered to be a Hymn to the Virgin Mary-Hail Mary. Here is a beautiful rendition performed by Luciano Pavarotti https://youtu.be/vXFhqG8G5uI
This feast is called Annunciation and it marks Mary saying yes to the angel to be mother of Jesus. In secular terms, it is 9 months to Christmas. Whether we mark this day by thinking and praying a hail Mary or start our Christmas card or shopping list, we should rejoice in this feast.