Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/608

This page needs to be proofread.
542

ANNUNCIATION


542


ANNUNCIATION


she be electc<l from amongst women for the spleiulid tlignity ol being tlic mother of the Messiah, having vowetl her virginity to God? (St. Augustine). Therefore, not doubting the word of God like Zachary, but filknl with fear and astonishment, .she said: •' How shall this be done, because I know not man?"

The angel to remove Mary's anxiety and to assure her that her virginity would be spared, answered: "Tlie Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. Anil therefore also the Holy which shall be born of tlice shall be called the Son of God." In token of the truth of his word he made known to her the con- ception of St. John, the miraculous pregnancy of her relative now old and sterile: "And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth; slie also has conceived a son in her qIiI age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God." Mary may not yet have fully under- stood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the Omnipotence of God she saiil: •' Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word."

Since 1SS9 Holzmann and many Protestant writers have tried tci sliow that the verses Luke i, 34, 35, containitig the message of conception through the Holy Ghost are interpolated. Usener derives the origin of the "myth " from the heathen hero worship; but Harnack tries to prove that it is of Judaic origin (Isaias, \'ii, 1-1, Behold a Virgin shall conceive, etc.). Bardenhewer, however, has fully established the authenticity of the text (p. 13). St. Luke may have taken his knowledge of the event from an older account, written in Aramaic or Hebrew. The words: "I'.lessed art thou among women" (v. 2S), are spurious and taken from verse 42, the account of the Visitation. Cardinal Cajetan wanted to understand the words: "because I know not man", not of the future, but only of the past: up to this hour I do not know man. This manifest error, which contradicts the words of the text, has been universally rejected by all Catholic authors. The opinion that Joseph at the time of the Annunciation was an aged widower and Mary twelve or fifteen years of age, is founded only upon apocryphal documents. The local tradition of Nazareth pretends that the angel met Mary and greeted her at the fountain, and when she Hed from liim in fear, he followed her into the house an<l there continued liis message. (Buhl, Geogr. V. Pahest., 1890.) The year and day of the Annuncia- tion cannot be determined as long as new material does not throw more light on the subject. The pres- ent date of the feast (25 March) depends upon the date of the older feast of Christmas.

The Aimunciation is the beginning of Jesus in His human nature. Through His mother He is a mem- ber of the human race. If the virginity of Mary before, during, and after the conception of her Divine Son was always considered part of the deposit of faith, this was done only on account of the liistorical f.^icts and testimonials. The Incarnarion of the Son of God did not in itself necessitate this exception from the laws of nature. Only reasons of expediency are given for it, chiefly, the end of the Incarnation. About to found a new generation of the ehililren of God, the Uedecmer does not arrive in the way of earthly generations: the power of the Holy Spirit enters the chaste womb of the Virgin, forming the humanity of Christ. Many holy fathers (Sts. Jerome, < ynl l'.phreni. Augustine) say that the coasent of .Mary w:ls essential to the redemption. It was the will of GofI, St. Thomas says (Smnma, III- A.\.\) that Ihe redemption of in:inkind should depend u|«>n the con.sent of the Virgin Marv This does not mean that God in His plans was bound by


the will of a creature, and that man would not have been redeemed, if Mary had not consented. It only means that the consent of Mary wa.s foreseen from all eternity, and therefore was received as essential into the design of God.

Frederick G. Holweck.

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thet

Fe.\st of the. 25 March, also called in old calendars: Festu.m Inc.\rx.\tio.\i.s, Ixitium Rede.mptio.vis,. CoxcEPTio Christi, Annunti.vtio Christi, An- NUNTi.i^Tio DojiiNic.\. In the Orient, where the part which Mary took in the Redemption is celebrated by a special feast, 26 December, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ; in the Latin Church, it is a feast of Mary. It probably originated shortly before or after the Council of Ephesus (c. 431). At the time of the Synod of Laodicea (372) it was. not known; St. Proclus, Bishop of Constantinople (d. 446), however, seems to mention it in one of his- homilies. He says, that the feast of the coming of Our Lord and Sa\aour, when He vested Himself with the nature of man {quo hominum genus indutus), was celebrated during the entire fifth century. This homily, however, may not be genuine, or the words may be imderstood of the feast of Christmas.

In the Latin Church this feast is first mentioned in the Sacramentarium of Pope Gelasius (d. 496), which we possess in a manuscript of the seventh century; it is also contained in the Sacramentarium of St. Gregory (d. 604), one manuscript of which dates back to the eighth century. Since these- sacramentaries contain additions posterior to the- time of Gelasius and Gregory, Duchesne (Origines du culte Chretien, 118, 261) ascribes the origin of this feast in Rome to the seventh century; Probst, however, (Sacramentarien, 264) thinks that it really belongs to the time of Pope Gelasius. The tenth Synod of Toledo (656), and TruUan Sjaiod (692) speak of this feast as one universally celebrated in the Catholic Church.

All Christian antiquity (against all astronomical possibility) recognized the 25th of March as the actual day of Our Lord's death. The opinion that the Incarnation also took place on that date is found in the pseiido Cyprianic work " De Pascha Computus ", c. 240. It argues that the coming of Our Lord and His death must have coincided with the creation and fall of Adam. And since the -n'orld was created in spring, the Saviour w-as also conceived and died shortly after the equinox of spring. Similar fanciful calculations are found in the early and later Middle Ages, and to them, no doubt, the dates of the feast of the Annunciation and of Christmas owe their origin. Consequently the ancient martyrologics assign to the 25th of March the creation of .-Vdam and the crucifixion of Our Lord; also, the fall of Lucifer, the passing of Israel through the Red Sea and the immo- lation of Isaac. (Thurston, Christmas and the Christian Calendar, Ainer. Eccl. Rev., XIX, 568.) The original date of this feast was the 25th of Marcli. Althougli in olden times most of the churches kept no feast in Lent, the Greek Church in the Trullan Synod (In 692; can. 52) made an exception in favour of the Annunciation. In Rome, it was always celebrated on the 25th of March. The Spanish Church transferred it to the ISth of December, and when some tried to introduce the Roman observance of it on the 25th of March, the 18th of December was. officially confirmed in the whole Spanish Church by the tcntli Synotl of Toledo (656). This law was abolished when the Roman Uturgy was accepted in Spain.

The church of Milan, up to our times, assigns the office of this feast to tlic last Sunday in .-Vilvent. On the 25th of March a Mass is sung in honour of the Annunciation. {Ordo Arnbrosianus, 1906; Magis-