This Monday we’re going to be celebrating the solemnity of the Annunciation.
This day celebrates the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce of the birth of Christ.
What’s going on and why is this day important?
Here are 8 things you need to know.
1. What does the word “Annunciation” mean?
It’s derived from the same root as the word “announce.” Gabriel is announcing the birth of Christ in advance.
“Annunciation” is simply an old-fashioned way of saying “announcement.”
Although we are most familiar with this term being applied to the announcement of Christ’s birth, it can be applied in other ways also.
For example, in his book Jesus of Nazareth 3: The Infancy Narratives, Benedict XVI has sections on both “The annunciation of the birth of John” and “The annunciation to Mary,” because John the Baptist’s birth was also announced in advance.
2. When is the Annunciation normally celebrated and why does it sometimes move?
Normally the Solemnity of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25th.
This date is used because it is nine months before Christmas (December 25th), and it is assumed that Jesus spent the normal nine months in the womb.
However, March 25th sometimes falls during Holy Week, and the days of Holy Week have a higher liturgical rank than this solemnity (weekdays of Holy Week have rank I:2, while this solemnity has a rank of I:3; see here for the Table of Liturgical Days by their ranks).
Still, the Annunciation is an important solemnity, and so it doesn’t just vanish from the calendar. Instead, as the rubrics in the Roman Missal note:
Whenever this Solemnity occurs during Holy Week, it is transferred to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.
It is thus celebrated on the first available day after Holy Week and the Octave of Easter (which ends on the Second Sunday of Easter).