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‘Let It Be To Me According To Your Word’ : Chris Fewings

Novgorod icon fom Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. style= Novgorod icon from Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

In the Western church the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, usually celebrated on 25th March, exactly nine months before Christmas, is transferred to April 8th this year because it ‘conflicts’ with Holy Week.

Does this make sense? Should we speed up our liturgical gestation, or should we always allow 38 weeks to ponder these things in our hearts? Is it right to separate the message of the angel (which our medieval forebears took as the start of a new era, and of every new year) from the violence of Holy Week?

Here’s an excerpt from Canon Allchin’s book The Joy of All Creation, in which he states that the Anglican understanding of Mary has always centred round the annunciation, the announcing of the in-carnation, the enfleshment of the word in the womb, which begins with the collect for the Annunciation:

‘Grant, O Lord, that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, through the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection.’

In this form of prayer we hold together in one the thought of the birth of the saviour at Bethlehem with the thought of his dying and rising again in Jerusalem, the present moment of the believer’s life, now, with the final moment, the hour of his death, which is already latent in that present moment. We bring together the Saviour’s birth and dying with our own. The barely prayable prayer of the one annunciation becomes the type of all human acts of faith and obedience in response to the divine initiative, even of that supreme act which Mary’s Son is to make at the moment when he offers himself to death, and doing so overcomes death.

We begin to see why it is that the moment of the annunciation is the moment which makes sense of all other moments. It is a moment which is truly in time, not out of time. It has a whole series of temporal consequences; the embryo begins to stir in the womb. But it is a moment in which eternity has really come, in which God is present and at work. Both the birth and the death of Jesus witness to the depth and immensity of God’s love, and to the infinite openness and potential of human life. And just as, in baptism, the death of each one who is baptized is included in Christ’s death, in order that the whole process of dying may become dying into life, so also the birth of each one is included in Christs’s birth, in order that the whole process of living may be open to the coming of the Spirit, who is Lord and giver of life.

The Joy of All Creation: an Anglican meditation on the place of Mary by A. M. Allchin (2nd edition) published by New City, 1993 (p. 199)

Mary’s yes to life “Let it be to me according to your word”, her allowing of the indwelling, interdwelling Word, points forward to the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane “Not my will, but yours be done”, which opened the whole of humanity to the reality of the resurrection.

Chris Fewings

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