Tag Archives: Annunciation

Earliest icon of the Annunciation

I love early Christian history. Don’t you? In fact, I have enjoyed time spent in the various musea, locally and notably here in New Haven, Connecticut at the Yale Art Museum where there is a marvelous exposition of Dura Europus, one of the earliest house churches. But there are marvelous early collections at the world’s musea. I’d suggest going on a study tour. The study of our early Christian roots is about our common Christian memory.

I saw this icon today in cyberspace making the historic claim of being the oldest surviving icon of the Annunciation. A terrific find! The icon is located in the Catacomb of Priscilla on theVia Salaria in Rome. This icon dates from the second century AD.

Several years ago I had the privilege of walking and praying in one of the catacombs but not this one. Historians of Christian archeology say that the Roman catacombs are treasuries of early iconography.

For more info on this early icon of the Annunciation is located here.

One of the interesting comments made is “One difference between this depiction of the Annunciation and later icons is that the Mother of God is shown with her head uncovered. In Rome, young virginal maidens would always have their heads uncovered, and so the imagery is in keeping with the Christian beliefs regarding Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. The veil worn in the East would come to dominate iconography of the Mother of God in later centuries.”

Annunciation to Mary

Today is the beginning of our salvation. Indeed, we rejoice in Mary’s “yes” to being the Mother of the Redeemer, and respond with our own “yes” today to God’s will in our lives.

In the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani’s Meditations on the Holy Rosary, he writes about the Annunciation:

The Angel’s words could have astounded with wonder and humility the young woman to whom they were addressed. But they were not so astounding as to be totally unintelligible; they contained something that made them intelligible to the heart of that young girl who was living her religious duties. The Virgin embraced them to herself: “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.” Not because she understood but, in the confusion that had become boundless because of the Mystery that announced itself by vibrating in her flesh, the Virgin opened her arms wide, the arms of her freedom, and said, “Yes.” And she stayed alert every day, every hour, every minute of her life. The Virgin Mary’s state of mind, that state of mind which determines an attitude and decides for it in the face of the occasion and the moment, how can we better describe the Virgin’s state of mind than with the word “silence”? Silence as memory filled to overflowing. Two things contributed to this memory, two things determined this silence. The first was remembering what had happened. What had happened preserved its marvelousness, its true mystery, its mystery of truth intact because — and this is the second thing — it had something that was present: that Child, that present young Man, that Son who was present.

Going to the Church Fathers is always a good thing: Saint Ireneus of Lyons teaches us that “For as Eve was seduced by an angel’s voice to turn from God betraying His word, so Mary was given the good news by an angel’s voice that she would bear God, and the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that Mary should become the advocate of Eve. And as the human race was bound to death by a virgin, by a virgin it was delivered.”

The Annunciation: God’s presence among us is true

Lent and Easter interrupted the March 25th observance of the Annunciation, so the Church transferred the Solemnity of the Annunciation until today. Two striking pieces for our mediation: one from Saint Leo the Great and the other from the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani.


Annunciation by PCavallini.jpg

Each one is a partaker of this spiritual origin in regeneration.  To every one, when he is reborn, the water of baptism is like the Virgin’s womb, for the same Holy Spirit fills the font, who filled the Virgin, that the sin, which that sacred conception overthrew, may be taken away by this mystical washing.  [s. 24.3]


St. Leo the Great

AND

The Angel’s words could have astounded with wonder and humility the young woman to whom they were addressed. But they were not so astounding as to be totally unintelligible; they contained something that made them intelligible to the heart of that young girl who was living her religious duties. The Virgin embraced them to herself: “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.” Not because she understood but, in the confusion that had become boundless because of the Mystery that announced itself by vibrating in her flesh, the Virgin opened her arms wide, the arms of her freedom, and said, “Yes.” And she stayed alert every day, every hour, every minute of her life. The Virgin Mary’s state of mind, that state of mind which determines an attitude and decides for it in the face of the occasion and the moment, how can we better describe the Virgin’s state of mind than with the word “silence”? Silence as memory filled to overflowing. Two things contributed to this memory, two things determined this silence. The first was remembering what had happened. What had happened preserved its marvelousness, its true mystery, its mystery of truth intact because — and this is the second thing — it had something that was present: that Child, that present young Man, that Son who was present.


Luigi Giussani

Meditations on Rosary

The Annunciation: the beginning of salvation

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!

(Troparion, Tone 4)

Annunciation Icon 2013.jpg

Indeed, today is the beginning of salvation history. As St Luke’s gospel (1:26-38) reveals, and as other languages portray the Incarnation, we’ve received “good tidings.” From the moment the angel’s message was received positively by Mary cosmic history has never been the same. March 25 is the solemnity of the Annunciation to the Mary that she’s be the Mother of God (the most Holy Theotokos). And it’s Holy Week followed by Eastertide, the Church will observe this solemn occasion on April 8. Nevertheless, a word or two need to be said about the Annunciation.

Liturgical history tells us that there exists a 2nd century painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla. And more widely celebrated since the 4th century, the Christian community has observed the Annunciation as  a solemn day of grace.

Ecclesiastical history bears witness to the Council of Toledo in 656 mentioning the Feast in Spain and then at the Council in Trullo in 692 indicating the Church there having a celebration of the Annunciation even though it was Lent. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council spoke about the Marian principle of the Church as being fundamental to the life of the Church (see the conclusion of Lumen Gentium), even more important that the Petrine principles because what we believe to be true about the Incarnation. 


On the Annunciation, the Knights of Columbus pray for the unborn children and the work of being pro Life.

The feast testifies that God fulfills His promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” What the prophets and teachers of the Law believed and taught the people of Israel, was given by Gabriel’s announcement; and in the Christian dispensation the Fathers of the Church have taught that what is called “her seed” to refer to Jesus. Here is an unmistakable theological view that Jesus is the new Adam, the new tree of life, the new Law, the new Lawgiver, the new face of God.

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The Annunciation of the Lord


Annunciation FAlbani.jpgThe mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a
mystery of silence. It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace. 


We
feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a
virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal
marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not
dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with
another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage
or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding
the divine Sonship. Why then?


We find the answer when we open the Old Testament
and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in
salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been
barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life,
became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people. 

The
process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but
eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the
mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that
salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from
God–from an act of his grace.

Joseph Ratzinger
Co-Workers of the Truth Meditations
for Every Day of the Year
(1992), 99-100.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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