About the Feast

The Feast ofthe Annunciation, on the calendar nine months before Christmas Day, is one of the more important feasts of the liturgical year. It commemorates the actual Incarnation of our Savior in the womb of His Mother, Mary. This is the moment when Jesus first "became man and dwelt among us." (See CCC nos. 484-488.)

The biblical account of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of Luke (1:26 56). Saint Luke describes the moment when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to become the Mother of God. Luke reports (and tradition holds that Luke probably interviewed Mary herself for this account) that the angel Gabriel first said, "Hail, thou who art highly favored; the Lord is with thee", and Mary's response to God's will was, "Let it be done to me according to thy word."

Despite the fact that Luke's Gospel dates from the first century of the Church—so the actual event of the Annunciation was well known—the Church probably did not celebrate the Annunciation until the early 5th century. It possibly originated at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), when Mary was officially declared the Mother of God (see CCC nos. 484-488). (The miracle of Our Lady of Snows is also associated with this Council.) The significance of the Annunciation as the beginning of Christ's life on earth and of our salvation has lead many to believe also that the day was the anniversary of many crucial events, including God's creation of the world, Adam's fall, and the Crucifixion (CCC nos. 484-494).

It is certainly appropriate for the domestic church to make a special family celebration of this feast. To be pro-family is inevitably to be pro-life, and the Feast of the Annunciation is a marvelous witness to the sanctity of human life.

In central Europe, farmers honored the feast by putting a picture representing the Annunciation into their barrel of seed grain, and saying a prayer like this one from Austria:

O Mary, Mother, we pray to you;
Your life today with fruit was blessed:
Give us the happy promise too,
That our harvest will be of the best;
If you protect and bless the field,
A hundredfold each grain must yield.

Having asked the help of Mary, they then planted their crops the next day, confident that 

Saint Gabriel to Mary flies—
‘Tis the end of snow and ice.

Observing the Feast

The Feast of the Annunciation teaches us about the value and sanctity of human life, for God choose to become man in the person of Jesus, the Christ (the Anointed One). It also celebrates Mary's humility, submission, and obedience to God's will, thus bringing such a great gift to us all.

The celebration of the Annunciation and the Incarnation affirms that human life begins at conception, not birth. Many children (and, sad to say, many adults too) think that an individual becomes "real" only at birth, yet the Gospel clearly tells us that Jesus "became flesh" at the Annunciation, not on Christmas Day.

There are several ways we can bring the lessons of the Feast of the Annunciation to our families:

    A mother fortunate enough to be pregnant at this time can tell her other children that the baby in her "tummy" is already a little brother or sister. This can be a powerfullesson in the truth about human life.
    When the family is gathered together, either at the dinner table or for evening prayers, read the first chapter of Luke aloud.
    Parents and older children can read the Catechism ofthe Catholic Church's section on Article Three of the Creed: "He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary" (nos. 456-511). Use the chapter summary at the end for discussion.
    Construct an Annunication scene and put it on display in your home for the week. Use your Christmas creche figures, and add elements. You might build a "house" from a cereal box or fashion an angel Gabriel to complete the scene.
    Plant marigold (Mary's Gold) seeds in small pots or paper drinking cups filled with potting soil. Water them gently, and put them on a sunny windowsill to grow.

    Remind the children that much of God's work (including our work!) in the world is hidden, just like the marigold seeds, and only eventually flowers into something beautiful after it has had time to grow.

    Transplant the seedlings to a flower bed outside when the weather permits.
    Last but, as far as the children are concerned, not least: Bake a special cake. A seed cake was traditional in England on this feast. An angel-food cake would also be appropriate.

Aside: .If you are not in the habit of reading aloud to your children at least once a day, start now! Being read to and seeing parents read for enjoyment are the two most significant factors in promoting a child's literacy!
Recipe: Seed Cake


    2 cups flour
    Pinch of salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 cup softened butter
    11/2 cups white sugar
    4 eggs
    21/2 tablespoons seeds: crushed anise (a licorice taste), caraway (often used in rye or pumpernickel bread), coriander (one of the spices in curry powder), poppy, or cardamom (another curry spice, also used in Scandinavian sweet breads)


Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 7-inch (or 8-inch) springform cake pan.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a deep bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar till fluffy and light colored. In another bowl, beat the eggs till well blended and light in color.

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Blend it in well. Add half the beaten eggs, and blend them in thoroughly. Add another third of flour, and blend it in well. Add the remaining eggs and, after blending them in, the remaining flour. Stir in 11/2 tablespoons of the seeds, and mix gently until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the rest of seeds on top of the batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 60 minutes. Use a skewer or thin knife blade to test the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven when done, and leave to cool for five minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan, and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap the cake in waxed or aluminum paper, and store overnight in the refrigerator. Decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar, or drizzle with icing-sugar glaze.