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Definition: Annunciation from Philip's Encyclopedia

Announcement made to the Virgin Mary by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of Christ (Luke 1). In many Christian Churches, the Feast of the Annunciation is kept on March 25, a date often called 'Lady Day'. The Annunciation was a common subject for painters during medieval and Renaissance times.


Summary Article: Annunciation
from The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

The word annunciation literally means announcement. It is the title given to the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the birth of Christ (Luke 1:26-38). The event described by St. Luke makes reference to the name of Jesus, his greatness and eternal kingship, his reign on the throne of David, and his status as the Son of the God Most High. These numerous references are traditionally understood in the context of the Old Testament promise of a Messiah. Isaiah 7:14, for example, says “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” a declaration that is repeated in Matthew 1:23. He would be a second David making visible God's invisible kingship (Ps. 2:6-12) and bring salvation to his people. The lady asks “how will this be done, for I know not a man.” The angel answers that the “Holy Spirit will come upon you,” and the “power of the Most High will overshadow you” and “the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35-38). St. Elizabeth soon afterwards confirms the angel's praise, “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42) and Mary offers the prayer known as the Magnificat harking back to the prophecies of the Old Testament and the prediction that “henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

Some modern theologians adopt a skeptical approach to the honor given to Mary, both in the east and west as well as in Islam. It is argued that the combined ideas of a God incarnate and a virgin mother who bears him are both notions that need to be understood psychologically.

The traditional view is that it is proper to venerate, as distinct from adore, the mother of Christ, because Christ is in fact God incarnate, king and savior. It is right to do so precisely because of her special role in human salvation. The feast of the Annunciation, sometimes known as Lady Day, is celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas.

SEE ALSO: Angels; Incarnation; Virgin Mary

References and Suggested Readings
  • Brown, R., et al. (eds.) (1978). Mary in the New Testament: A collaborative assessment by Protest-ant and Roman Catholic scholars. Fortress Philadelphia.
  • Carroll, M. P. (1986). Cult of the Virgin Mary: Psychological origins. Princeton University Press Princeton, NJ.
  • John Paul, II Pope. (1987). Mary, God's yes to man: Encyclical letter of John Paul II. Ignatius Press San Francisco.
  • Migne, J. P. (1844-1855). Patrologiae cursus com-pletus, series Latina. Paris, 221 vols. (a.k.a. PL).
  • Jacqueline Laing
    Wiley ©2012

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