Are you one of those people who never takes down your Christmas lights? Or maybe you’re the neighbour scowling at one of those people? Exactly nine months before the birth of Jesus, we celebrate his conception. Today’s solemnity of the annunciation is a reminder of Christmas in the middle of Lent!
The liturgical year cracks me up sometimes but it’s good. Days like this remind us that the liturgical year is not a linear historical re-enactment but a dynamic spiral. Every time we step into the liturgical year there is the potential to encounter a unique aspect of the Paschal Mystery.
It might seem frustrating if we’re trying to keep Jesus and salvation history tucked away into tidy categories. But the liturgical year breaks that open for us. It’s always relevant. The lectionary readings never have to be replaced with something thematic because they can always shed light on whatever we are living.
The incarnation relates to us not only at Christmas but also now, in Lent. Lately, I’ve been thinking about angels: the angel who came to Mary, the angel that came to Joseph, the angel that came to the shepherds. Today’s angelic appearance might be one of the most oft-depicted scenes in liturgical art. Although we only see the Angel and Mary in most depictions of the Annunciation, it is still a feast of the Lord. The first reading for Mass today gives us the prophecy of Emmanuel, “God is with us!”. Today, in Lent, we are meant to think about the Incarnation and what that means for us and our salvation.
All of which brings me to a suggestion for prayer, the Angelus. Recently I’ve been opening my pastoral teaching with this prayer because I wanted to draw attention to the role of the physical in ritual and liturgy. At the mention of the incarnation, “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”, we are to genuflect or bow. In addition to showing our homage, this gesture reminds us that Jesus came to us in the flesh, through the body of Mary, to save us who live out our discipleship physically in the world.
The Angelus was traditionally prayed three times a day, at 6am, noon, and 6pm. I invite you to offer this prayer at any time today and to reflect upon how your bodily life reflects the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done to me according to thy word.
Hail Mary. . .
V. And the Word was made flesh. (bow or genuflect)
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary. . .
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.
Simone Brosig is an educator, author, and liturgy consultant with a PhD in Medieval Studies and a MA in Pastoral Liturgy from the University of Notre Dame. She writes and teaches about living the liturgy. Simone is a near-native Calgarian, who enjoys spending her free time “forest bathing” in the Rockies and learning languages. Simone’s new book, Holy Labours: A Spiritual Calendar of Everyday Work, can be found here.
Thank you for this lovely reflection. Still so relevant, even though I read it almost a month after the feast of the Annunciation! Just the other day, I was remembering walking (and running) home for lunch when I was in elementary school (dating myself here). The bells of our parish church would be ringing the Angelus, and I would pray along with the bells, hoping to remember all the words of the beautiful prayer.