St. Ann celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation with Vespers for the feast on Wednesday, March 24 at 5:00 p.m. and the Divine Liturgy on Thursday, March 25 at 5:00 p.m.

When the angel Gabriel announced to the Mary that she had been chosen by God to become the Theotokos (Mother of God), she responded surely, with great faith: “Let it be so according to your word.” With her acceptance, the eternal God was conceived in her womb. In that moment the course of human history changed, because His conception was the moment at which God assumed human nature and form.

Jesus’ birth revealed the mystery of His incarnation to the world, but it was at His conception that this mystery was first accomplished.

The deepest meanings of the Feast of the Annunciation have anchored important Christian practices and beliefs through the ages. Here is a passage from the website of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton regarding our contemporary observances of this feast day:

The mystery we celebrate on March 25 has been recognized as an important milestone for two very different groups of people. Many pro-life parents throughout the world have begun to celebrate their children’s First Days, nine months before their birthdays. In this they are rejecting the secular culture’s contention that a fetus is a “part” of the mother which only “becomes human” later in its development.

Christian pro-lifers accordingly keep the Feast of the Annunciation as the First Day of the Incarnate Word. They encourage its observance as a sign that the Christian community recognize and honor the conception and prenatal life of the Lord. If believers do not celebrate the conception of One who was foretold and announced by an angel, they reason, why should the world esteem the coming of its unwanted children?

In 1998 Argentina became the first nation to commemorate March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child. Since then many other countries with a Hispanic culture (e.g. Central and South America, the Philippines) have done the same. In Spain the day was given a wider focus. Their International Day for Life encourages recognition of the dangers of euthanasia, embryo experimentation and other challenges to the sanctity of life.

In the United States groups including the American Life League, the Knights of Columbus and Priests for Life have prompted observance and public recognition of this day.

In 2010 Christians and Muslims in Lebanon responded to the hostilities between these groups in other countries by joining forces to declare March 25 a national holiday celebrating the place of the Virgin Mary in Christianity and in Islam. The initiative for this Islamic-Christian Day came from a Sunni Sheikh, Mohammed Nokkari, and an inter-faith group centered in the College of Notre Dame in Jamhour, near Beirut. Their annual gathering on the Annunciation, “Together Around Our Lady Mary,” led to civic recognition on the national and local level. In Beirut the plaza in front of the National Museum has been designated the “place de Marie,” featuring a stylized sculpture of the Virgin surrounded by a crescent, the international symbol of Islam.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

Henry Ossawa TannerThe Annunciation, 1898

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