Tomorrow marks the other of the two Solemnities celebrated during Lent, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord. We recall the Incarnation, the moment the Word became Flesh within Mary’s Virginal womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. This feast is celebrated nine months before Christmas Day, marking the maternity of Mary.
This is one of the times of the years I love to pull out my books and read about the history of the liturgy, traditions, symbolisms of the day. I’ll share my food thoughts at Catholic Cuisine. This post will be a little rough, with mostly thoughts and collections of links and ideas.
Overall Liturgy and Feast Day inspirations, see:
Women for Faith and Family
In my sidebar there is a page on the Annunciation, which is a chapter from Father Francis Weiser’s The Holyday Book. This is rich with the history of this feast day.
What particularly interested me was that in central Europe this is often called “Feast of Swallows”:
It is the general belief (and usually happens) that the first swallows return from their migration on or about this day. An ancient saying in Austria claims:
When Gabriel does the message bring,
Return the swallows, comes the spring.
This coincidence might have been the reason why people in medieval Europe ascribed to the swallows a certain hallowed character. They call them “God’s birds” in Hungary, “Mary’s birds” in Austria and Germany; and no farmer would ever kill swallows or destroy their nests. Another reason might well have been the fact (made known in Europe by Crusaders and pilgrims) that the town of Nazareth, where the Annunciation took place, has an abundance of swallows circling the houses all day with their cheerful twittering.
So, while in the United States March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph is the return of the swallows, the other Solemnity of Lent, a few days later is the Feast of Swallows in Europe. What a perfect tie-in for both feast days! In my previous post I included some links regarding Song of the Swallows. I thought a swallows craft would be perfect to tie these feasts together.
Cliff Swallow Nest
Bird Mobile to Download includes a swallow. An alternative could make just swallows for the mobile which is what we are going to do, if I get my color printer hooked up in time. There is also a non-color option. ETA: Our swallows are so beautiful! A highly successful craft!
There’s also a beautiful picture to color from the Rosary Coloring pages I have in my sidebar. ETA: I also added another Annunciation Coloring page.
Of course the prayer we’re going to stress for this day is the Angelus, recalling the moment of Incarnation:
V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
The symbolism for the Annunciation includes the Annunciation Lily, which has no stamen and may have a tiny flame of fire on it; Fleur-de-Lis; Gladiolus; Angel (as in St. Gabriel).
Some Old Testament types of the Annunciation include the visit of the angels to Abraham, announcing the birth of Isaac; God appearing in the burning bush to Moses, announcing the delivery of Israel from Egypt; budding of Aaron’s rod is type of announcement that the Rod of Jesse should burst into blossom and bear fruit; and announcement of the birth of Samson and Samuel are also types of the Annunciation. (see Church Symbolism by Webber).
Our reading will include sections on the Annunciation from these books:
The Life of Mary edited by Inos Biffi
Young Mary of Nazareth by Marianna Mayer
Mary: Mother of Jesusby Tomie DePaola
Mary, Mother of Jesusby Mary Joslin
Mary by Brian Wildsmith
And since it’s an Old Testament type of the Annunciation, and also ties in with our Lenten themes,
Moses: The Long Road to Freedomby Genady Spirin
Moses by Margaret Hodges.
Exodus by Brian Wildsmith
All of these have tremendous illustrations, especially of the scene of the Burning Bush.
Tying in the Swallows and Easter, we will also read The Easter Swallows by Vicki Howie
The word Lent is a form of Spring, and with the warmer temperatures and blooming vegetation in this hemisphere, our thoughts naturally turn outdoors. This is a perfect time to plan or start a Mary garden, whether it be one potted plant, or a few special flowers planted within the vegetable garden, or a whole plot dedicated to Mary.
The website Mary Gardens is the ultimate source for Mary Gardens ideas, but there is also a beautiful book Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends, and Meditations by Vincenzina Krymowthat also can provide inspiration.
Also, from Father Weiser again, he also has some Marian plant information, tying in the “fertility rites” of Spring with Mary. And this feast day seems to be the perfect tie-in. From The Easter Bookby Francis X. Weiser, S.J., Copyright, 1954, by Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.:
Fertility Rites — While the struggle between summer and winter went on (December to April), many symbolic celebrations were held to demonstrate how anxious people were for the coming warm season and to insure as well the blessings of fertility (the important second part of these ancient rites).
The joy over the appearance of new plants and flowers in spring prompted man to attribute to them a special power of protection and healing. People planted special spring flower gardens; they brought branches of early-blossoming plants, like pussy willows, into their homes; they decorated themselves and their living rooms with wreaths of flowers and clusters of blossoms. A striking Christian variation of these nature rites was the medieval custom of planting “Mary gardens,” which were made up of all the flowers and herbs that are ascribed by love and legend as a special tribute to the Blessed Virgin. This charming and inspiring tradition has been revived in many places in Europe and more recently in this country.3
In a typical Mary garden the statue of the Madonna occupies a place of honor, either in the center or in a grotto against the wall, with, usually, a birdbath or bubbling fountain built in front of it. Some of the more familiar plants of the many that belong in a typical Mary garden are:….
Marigold (Mary’s bud) has bell-shaped blossoms of vivid yellow. An old legend says, “Her dresses were adorned with Marigold.” This flower was used to decorate her shrines for the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and during the month of May. ….
I also love this section from Mary Reed Newland classic work The Year and Our Children. Although she gives the idea for the Month of Mary, I think the Annunciation is the beginning of wonderful Marian feasts in the spring to start making Mary Shrines.
Other points to stress are how this is a pro-life feast day, purity and virginity of Mary, obedience to God’s Will (Fiat), the circle of feasts in the Calendar, and also choosing some classic works of art of the Annunciation and compare and highlight.
The Word was made Flesh,
And Dwelt Among us.
A blessed feast of the Annunciation to you all.