The Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos
one of the
"The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. There is a painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome dating from the second century. The Council of Toledo in 656 mentions the Feast, and the Council in Trullo in 692 says that the Annunciation was celebrated during Great Lent." (OCA)
in the icon
In the icon of the feast, the archangel Gabriel approaches the Theotokos as if he is running to bring her the joyful news - she has been chosen to be the Mother of God. He reaches out in greeting to hail her, Full of Grace. The Theotokos is seated on a raised throne, reminding us that she is “greater in honor than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without corruption gave birth to God the Word.” She holds in her left hand the spindle of yarn which she used to do her job at the Temple, weaving the veil for the Temple in Jerusalem. She raises her right hand in acceptance. Mary is always shown in iconography with three stars - on her two shoulders and her head - to symbolize her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Christ.
Above Mary, we can see the rays of the Holy Spirit descending to her.
"In contrast to Eve, who was readily deceived by the serpent, the Virgin did not immediately accept the Angel’s message. In her humility, she did not think she was deserving of such words, but was actually troubled by them. The fact that she asked for an explanation reveals her sobriety and prudence. She did not disbelieve the words of the angel, but could not understand how they would be fulfilled, for they spoke of something which was beyond nature."
In our domestic church...
- We discuss what our response is to God's call and pray that we have the grace to emulate Mary's willingness to say yes to God.
- We talk about the Incarnation and what it means to us that Christ deigned to become fully human for our sakes.
- We pray the Akathist to the Theotokos
- We paint small clay plant pots with symbols of Mary and plant Marigold seeds, reminding us that today we celebrate the first day the tiny baby Jesus began to grow in Mary's womb.
- We read our books about the feast day
- We hang our Marian banner, have a nice dinner with our Marian napkins, and have a coffee ring (or something similar) for dessert to remember that this feast leads us back around to Christmas, and back around again in the cycle of the liturgical year.
Troparion — Tone 4
Today is the beginning of our salvation, / 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!
Kontakion — Tone 8
O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts! / We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos! / As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity / So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!
In central Europe the popular name for this feast is the "Feast of Swallows" since the swallows return on or around this day from their migration. In Austria the ancient saying refers to this:
When Gabriel does the message bring Return the swallows, comes the spring.
Perhaps because of this Europeans in the Middle Ages viewed swallows as holy birds, calling them "God's birds" in Hungary, "Mary's birds" in Austria and Germany. No one would destroy the swallows or their nests. Father Francis Weiser explains more traditions on this feast day:
It was an ancient custom of the papal Curia (executive office) to start the year on March 25 in all their communications and documents, thus calling it the "Year of the Incarnation." This practice was also adopted by most civil governments for the legal dating of documents. In fact, the Feast of the Annunciation, called "Lady Day," marked the beginning of the legal year in England even after the Reformation, up to 1752.... In Russia priests would bless large wafers of wheat flour and present them to the faithful after the service. Returning home, the father would hand a small piece of the wafer to each member of his family and to the servants. They received it with a deep bow and ate it in silence. Later on in the day they took the remaining crumbs of the "Annunciation bread" out into the fields and buried them in the ground as a protection against blight, hail, frost, and drought.
In central Europe the farmers put a picture representing the Annunciation in the barrel that holds the seed grain. While doing so they pronounce some ancient prayer rhyme like this one from upper Austria:
O Mary, Mother, we pray to you; Your life today with fruit was blessed: Give us the happy promise, too, That our harvest will be of the best. If you protect and bless the field, A hundredfold each grain must yield.
Having thus implored the help of Mary, they start sowing their summer grains on the following day, assured that no inclement weather will threaten their crops, for, as the ancient saying goes,
Saint Gabriel to Mary flies: This is the end of snow and ice.
Activity Source: Holyday Book, The by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New York, 1956
Two interlocked circles
Old Testament Typology
Foreshadowing the Annunciation
Announcement of the Birth of Isaac
Announcement of the Birth of Samson
Announcement of the Birth of Samuel
God, From the Burning Bush, Announcing Israel's Deliverance
Ave Maria Gratia Plena
By Oscar Wilde
Was this His coming! I had hoped to see
A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold
Broke open bars and fell on Danaë ,
Or a dread vision as when Semele,
Sickening for love and unappeased desire,
Prayed to see God's clear body, and the fire
Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly.
With such glad dreams I sought this holy place
And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
An angel with a lily in his hand
And over both the white wings of a dove.
Food for the Feast
The main food associated with this feast is waffles. Just like pancakes or doughnuts, waffles (or wafers or gaufres) are usual feast day fare. This is Våffeldagen or Waffle Day in Sweden. One website said the name Vaffla, meaning waffle, originated from Var Fru, Our Lady, and that in time the two words became slurred and corrupted, first into Vaffer, then to Vaffla. The waffles are served with whipped cream and lingonberries
Recalling the year as a circle of days, reminders of eternity, the cycle of the Year of Our Lord, serve foods in the shape of wreaths or rings or circles. Wreath cookies, Angel Food Cake (double duty, reminding us of the Angel Gabriel), doughnuts with a hole, cakes baked in tube or Bundt pans, Coffee Rings would all be appropriate to serve today.
Thinking of the "seed" planted in Mary, a seed cake is also another traditional food.
This is what we will be making this year:
Keto Lemon Poppyseed cake
9.5 ounces (3 cups) of Almond Flour
½ teaspoon of Baking Powder
½ cup of Erythritol
2 tablespoons of Poppy Seeds
2 Lemons, zest only
3 tablespoons of Lemon Juice
3 tablespoons of Butter, melted
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
In a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, baking powder, sweetener and poppy seeds. Mix well.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and butter and mix well.
Add the eggs and mix until all combined
Pour the mixture into your lined 9×5 loaf tin.
Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. The loaf is cooked when golden brown and springs back when touched.
Leave to cool for 20 minutes.
A Little Litany
by G. K. Chesteron
When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven—and saw the earth.
Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.
Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.
Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In that strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.
Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.
Or risen from play at your pale raiment's hem
God, grown adventurous from all time's repose,
Or your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.
Keto sugar-free glaze for the cake
- 2 tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 tbsp Water
- 3 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 drops lemon or citrus essential oil
In a small bowl, use a whisk or fork to combine together the sugar alternative and cornstarch. Add the water (or milk) and extract. Mix until the ingredients appear to be mixed together. To thin this out, simply add a teaspoon of water.
adapted from: https://thesugarfreediva.com/sugar-free-glaze-recipe-for-baked-goods/
Make it easier on yourself!
Print off this lovely PDF & add it to your feast day notebook