At Mass in our church today the Feast of the Annunciation was celebrated. Its official date is March 25 but because of the date of Easter this year it has been delayed. In the Liturgical Year the Church celebrates many significant feasts of Our Lady; if there is a hierarchy of these memorable occasions that of the Immaculate Conception will be first, because it is this unique privilege that points towards every other event of Our Lady’s life on earth and her approved apparitions during the Church’s subsequent history.
Nonetheless, the subject-matter of the Annunciation has inspired more artists because of the very human drama of the event described in the Gospels: the angel Gabriel’s momentous communication, followed by Our Lady’s life-changing “Fiat”. My own favourite painting is Fra Angelico’s, because it so beautifully conveys Our Lady’s humility. It reminds one that one of the most attractive features of Catholicism is the person of Our Lady herself and the role she has played in salvation history. Although our love for her is incomprehensible to those outside the Faith, she fulfils our human longing for a mother infinitely compassionate and loving – and especially for a mother who will unceasingly intercede for us with her Son.
This particular feast in honour of Our Lady is also significant because it is intrinsically bound up with the pro-life movement. If Jesus became a human being at the Annunciation of his conception, so does every baby in the womb. Thus to be a Catholic is to be pro-life. Other Churches may quibble about a time when a baby is “less” than human and a time when it becomes “more” human; the Feast of the Annunciation tells it like it is