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Why I love an April Annunciation

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For one thing, it's the subject of my favorite poem ...

I love when the Feast of the Annunciation comes in April. The feast is normally celebrated on March 25, but gets moved to April when March 25 falls in Holy Week (as it did in 2016, when March 25 was Good Friday).

An April Annunciation combines several of my favorite things: My favorite month, my favorite feast day (apart from Christmas and Easter) and my favorite liturgical season, Easter. An April Annunciation is also the subject of my favorite poem.

An April Annunciation reminds us how we choose Christ …

“I sing of a maiden / That is matchless,” begins the poem. “King of all kings / For her son she chose.”

I love the quiet way this states Mary’s decision. She didn’t make an altar call, she didn’t cry out her assent in the Temple. Instead, she was visited by an angel in a quiet, private moment and said “Yes.”

Our “Yes” happens the same way. We absolutely need the pageantry of Holy Week, and the celebrations of Easter Week. But today, all that is done. Today we need to sit quietly with God, on our own, and say in earnest: Yes. I choose you.

… and an April Annunciation reminds us that our choice is nothing compared to his.

“He came as still / Where his mother was / As dew in April / That falleth on the grass,” the poem continues.

The high drama of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ can trick us into thinking that the right place to connect with Jesus is in big events that recall mighty acts that literally shook the earth in their demand for attention.

But Christ’s everyday coming isn’t like that. His coming, as the new Eucharistic Prayer points out, is like the dewfall — mysterious, invisible, and unstoppable.

As he did for Mary, Jesus comes to us unbidden and asks us to accept him. This is the mystery of the Annunciation.

The Annunciation reminds us that Christ utterly changes us …

“He came as still / To his mother’s bower / As dew in April / That falleth on the flower.”

I love the subtlety of the Annunciation.

Mary before the Annunciation was a lovely, quiet, faithful friend of God — a face in the Temple crowd. Mary after the Annunciation is a singular figure in salvation history — the Mother of God, the chosen of her race, the Queen of heaven and earth.

This is what accepting Christ does for each of us. Before Jesus, we are a nobody — unimportant and unremarkable. But in Christ we join the royal family of heaven as adopted sons of the Father, beloved of the Son and partners with the Holy Spirit. We share in the Trinitarian life of God.

… and the Annunciation reminds us how unchanged we are.  

“He came as still / Where his mother lay / As dew in April / That falleth on the spray.”

At the same time, Jesus remained entirely unseen in Mary’s life. He was a secret she carried inside herself. The only indication of his presence was in the way she behaved and in the way she smiled. She immediately went to help her cousin, Elizabeth, who immediately noticed something special about her.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary said.

It is the same with us. No one, to look at us, knows that we are Christian. But they ought to be able to tell by things we do for them  and by that look of barely hidden joy that gives away someone who has a wonderful secret — Jesus Christ within us.

Last, the Annunciation reminds us that we need Mary.

“Mother and maiden / There was never, ever one but she; / Well may such a lady / God’s mother be.”

As we see especially at her Annunciation, Mary is the perfect combination of two aspects of womanhood.

She is the strong, independent master of life with the power to put strangers at ease and know just what you need — like the woman who made you feel at ease in a new job, a new school, or in the hospital.

She is also the loving mother who knows you better than yourself and is willing to accept you back again and again when you fail.

She is a maiden who is matchless, who tries to get us to match her all the same.

~

The poem is the traditional English “I Sing of a Maiden.”

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