The Feast of the Annunciation in the Christian Church recalls the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in the town of Nazareth, to announce to her that she had been chosen by God to bear his Son, Jesus. The story is told in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke.


The Annunciation marks the conception of Jesus, his first physical incarnation as a human being, and it is celebrated on the 25th of March, nine months before we celebrate his birth on the 25th of December at Christmas.


Such is the significance of this event in the Christian calendar and in human history, that the 25th of March was celebrated as New Year’s Day (the day on which the number of the year changed and a new religious, civil, and financial year began) until the change of calendar in 1752. Because this change of calendar resulted in the loss of eleven days, these days were added to the start of the year to give people the same amount of time to pay their bills, and our financial year begins on the 5th of April to this day, all because of the significance of the Annunciation, as shown in this beautiful window.


In the panels of the glass we see the Angel Gabriel on the left, on his back the wings which have borne him, and on his feet the sandals of a messenger. His right hand is raised and pointing heavenward as if to say where his message comes from, a fact underlined by the rich divine red of his cope (cloak) and his jewelled coronet. In his left hand is a white lily, symbol of Mary’s purity, matched by the same flower to the right of Mary herself, and echoed in the floral motifs which decorate the window above and below.

Under the cope, Gabriel appears to be wearing a white alb (robe), surmounted by a blue chasuble, the vestment worn by a priest to celebrate Holy Communion, with the two ends of a tasselled stole peeping out from underneath a gilded hem. This seems to suggest that the angel, like a priest, intercedes for the people before God. The beginning of his message is spelled out in the panels below the picture:


“Hail, thou that art highly favoured. Blessed art thou among women.”


The blue of Gabriel’s chasuble highlights the blue of Mary’s garments and signifies, in the midst of this moment of fear and wonder, an inner peace and tranquillity at her hearing of God’s message. Mary is a picture of modesty and humility, her arms crossed over her breast, her head bowed, her head covered before God as she kneels in prayer before the scriptures on her prie-dieu (prayer desk). No powder on her face, no rouge on her lips, her eyes downcast, her humble acceptance of God’s plan is understood in her body language, and reflected in the decoration of a woman in prayer on the side of the desk.
Above Mary is the image of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. The power of the Spirit by which Mary conceives is shown by the three rays of divine Grace which shine upon her from above, symbolic of the Holy Trinity. We can also catch a glimpse of her undergarment – red to show the spark of divinity now within her.


This moment of conception is echoed by the fertility of the greenery in the background, and what look like an abundance of Kentish hops at the top of the windows. Even in Kent, in the heart of our own village communities, God is made man in Jesus Christ.


The significance of the Annunciation is recalled by Christians in the praying of the “Angelus” so-called after the first line of the prayers in Latin. “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.”


A bell is sometimes tolled when reciting this prayer, three times for each versicle and response (in bold) and nine times for the prayer at the end. 3x3=9, symbolic of the presence of God as Trinity. The bell lets others outside the church know that the prayers are being prayed and allows them to join in with the responses (in italics) wherever they may be.


We remember the story of the Annunciation and pray that we may also receive God’s grace in our lives and respond like Mary, with due humility and acceptance, to his will for us today.


In the words of the Hail Mary (Ave Maria) we ask that Mary, being especially blessed in her calling, may pray to God on our behalf despite our weakness and fallibility, until the end of our life.


The final prayer encapsulates the Holy Mysteries of Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection at the heart of our faith and at the centre of our life together.


You can hear and respond to the prayer being recited HERE


The Angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary (Luke 1:26-27)
And she conceived by the Holy Ghost. (Luke 1:31, 35)

 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:28)


Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
 

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)
Be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38)


Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:28)


Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
 

And the Word was made Flesh (John 1:14)
And dwelt among us (John 1:14)

 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:28)


Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of an angel, so by his Cross and Passion, we may be brought to the Glory of his Resurrection. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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