Monday, April 04, 2016

Feast of the Incarnation

The Feast of the Annunciation is unusually late this year for everyone on the Gregorian calendar, because March 25 fell across Easter Triduum, which are the most holy days of the year and thus capable of displacing even so ancient and important a feast as Annunciation. The Annunciation then gets displaced to the next appropriate day. It was last Tuesday for the Maronites, but the Latin Church only gets to it today. The reason for the difference is the Easter Octave. Venerable feasts of especially great importance were extended out, so to speak, as eight-day feasts. Thus the full week after a feast takes on something of the importance of the feast starting the octave. The custom became especially popular in the West, which began to have so many octaves that it became quite unruly, which led to attempts at organization in the nineteenth century (which were not especially successful) and finally, in 1955 Pius XII eliminated all octaves except for three: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. [In the Ordinary Form, the Pentecost Octave was also eventually eliminated (which was arguably a mistake, since it included some of the most venerable and influential prayers in the calendar).] So we have been in Easter Octave, with each day its own solemnity and extension of Easter itself, with the result that, in the Latin Church, today was the first day that could take the Feast of the Annunciation.

Feast of the Annunciation
by Christina Rossetti

Whereto shall we liken this Blessed Mary Virgin,
Faithful shoot from Jesse's root graciously emerging?
Lily we might call her, but Christ alone is white;
Rose delicious, but that Jesus is the one Delight;
Flower of women, but her Firstborn is mankind's one flower:
He the Sun lights up all moons thro' their radiant hour.
'Blessed among women, highly favoured,' thus
Glorious Gabriel hailed her, teaching words to us:
Whom devoutly copying we too cry 'All hail!'
Echoing on the music of glorious Gabriel.

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