Six months after the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah, the angel of God, Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth in Galilee. There, he was sent to announce to the Virgin Mary the birth of the Son of the Most High – Jesus.
Early Christians first celebrated the feast of the annunciation of the Lord in the fifth century. Celebrating the feast day annually on March 25 (nine months before the celebration of Christmas day), the feast focuses on the Incarnation of God in becoming one of us and the willingness of humanity to partake in God’s plan of Salvation.
In His divine plan of salvation, God decided for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to become human. From all eternity, Mary is already in the plan of God to be the mother of Christ. This important role of Mary, being the instrument in the Incarnation of God, was fulfilled in Her humble Fiat or ‘Yes’ as she said to the Archangel Gabriel the words:
“I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” (cf. Luke 1:38)
The Annunciation shows the considerate regard of God towards humans, by putting the salvation in fruition with the consent of a human. In welcoming the Savior as a mother, Mary welcomed God’s plan of salvation. Saint Luke the Evangelist, introduced Mary as the Virgin in the scene of the annunciation. (Luke 1:27) This, in turn, highlighted the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.” (cf. Isaiah 7:14)
Traditions and Celebrations
The Feast of the Annunciation is also called the “Feast of the Swallows” in central Europe as these passerine birds return from their migration “on or around this day”. These birds, in turn, were called in Hungary as “God’s birds” and in Austria and Germany as “Mary’s birds”. In tradition, Europeans preserve the nests of these migratory birds.
Also observed in Central Europe, farmers traditionally put a picture that represents the Annunciation in the barrels of seed grain. The farmers then pronounce an “ancient prayer rhyme”:
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.
As they implored this to Mary, farmers start sowing the grains on the following day assured of great weather ahead during summer for their crops.
In celebration of this feast in Russia, priests traditionally blessed large wafers of wheat flour called “Annunciation Bread” which would then be presented to the faithful after the mass. Wafers are then brought home and distributed to each member of the family and to the servants. Later on, the remaining crumbs of the wafer are taken out and buried in the fields as “protection against blight, hail, frost, and drought.”
Worldwide, legionaries of the Legion of Mary celebrate their Acies on days as near as possible to the feast of the Annunciation. The said ceremony considered one of the most “profound functions of the Legion” is done annually to renew and deepen legionaries’ Consecration to Mary. In the ceremony, legionaries stand one by one or by pair in front of the standard, Vexillum Legionis; in holding it, the formula is then uttered: “I am all yours my Queen and my Mother and all that I have is yours.”
Annunciation of the Lord: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/annunciation-of-the-lord
The Feast of the Annunciation: https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/annunciation.shtml
Christian Community Bible – Catholic Pastoral Edition (Revised Edition)
The Feast of the Annunciation: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/feast-of-the-annunciation-10461
Catholic Activity: Feast of the Annunciation: Origin and Traditions: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1057
The Purpose of the Acies: https://www.legionofmary.ie/news/article/the-purpose-of-the-acies