Wednesday 23 March 2016

'This doubtful day of feast or fast': Good Friday and the Annunciation

Annunciation and Crucifixion, from BL Add. 18850, f. 204v

This year Good Friday falls on Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation. This is a rare occurrence and a special one, because it means that for once the day falls on its 'true' date: in patristic and medieval tradition, March 25 was considered to be the historical date of the Crucifixion. It happens only a handful of times in a century, and won't occur again until 2157.

These days the church deals with such occasions by transferring the feast of the Annunciation to another day, but traditionally the conjunction of the two dates was considered to be both deliberate and profoundly meaningful. The date of the feast of the Annunciation was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion, as deduced from the Gospels, in order to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. March 25 was both the first and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth. The idea goes back at least to the third century, and Augustine explained it in this way:

He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.

This day was not only a conjunction of man-made calendars but also a meeting-place of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. Here's Bede explaining some of the symbolism of this latter point (from here, p.25):

It is fitting that just as the Sun at that point in time first assumed power over the day, and then the Moon and stars power over the night, so now, to connote the joy of our redemption, day should first equal night in length, and then the full Moon should suffuse [the night] with light. This is for the sake of a certain symbolism, because the created Sun which lights up all the stars signifies the true and eternal light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, while the Moon and stars, which shine, not with their own light (as they say), but with an adventitious light borrowed from the Sun, suggest the body of the Church as a whole, and each individual saint. These, capable of being illumined but not of illuminating, know how to accept the gift of heavenly grace but not how to give it. And in the celebration of the supreme solemnity, it was necessary that Christ precede the Church, which cannot shine save through Him... Observing the Paschal season is not meaningless, for it is fitting that through it the world's salvation both be symbolized and come to pass.
As Bede says at the end here, this dating is symbolic but it is not only a symbol; it reveals the deep relationship between Christ's death and all the created world, including the sun and moon and everything on earth. According to some calculations 25 March was also considered to be the eighth day of the week which saw the creation of the world (for more on that, see this post), as well as the date of certain events from the Old Testament which prefigured Christ's death, including the sacrifice of Isaac and the crossing of the Red Sea. It is the single most significant date in salvation history, and for that reason has also made it into some fictional history too: those of you who are Tolkien fans will know that the final destruction of the Ring takes place on 25 March, to align Tolkien's own eucatastrophe with this most powerful of dates.

Calendar, marking the Annunciation and Crucifixion on 25 March (BL Royal 1 D X, f.10)

But it's the link between the Annunciation and the Crucifixion which has most fascinated theologians and artists over the centuries. Here's one beautiful passage from the Old English Martyrology, in its entry for March 25, explaining what was by the ninth century the common understanding of the date (the text is from this edition, pp.72-7, with my translation):

On ðone fif ond twentegðan dæg þæs monðes com Gabrihel ærest to Sancta Marian mid Godes ærende, ond on ðone dæg Sancta Maria wæs eacen geworden on Nazareth ðære ceastre þurh þæs engles word ond þurh hire earena gehyrnesse, swa þas treowa ðonne hi blostmiað þurh þæs windes blæd.... Ond ða æfter twa ond ðritegum geara ond æfter ðrym monðum wæs Crist ahangen on rode on ðone ylcan dæg. Ond sona swa he on ðære rode wæs, ða gescæfta tacnedon þæt he was soð God. Seo sunne asweartade, ond se dæg wæs on þeostre niht gecierred fram midne dæg oð non.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month Gabriel first came to St Mary with God’s message, and on that day St Mary conceived in the city of Nazareth through the angel’s word and through the hearing of her ears, like trees when they blossom at the blowing of the wind... And then after thirty-two years and three months Christ was crucified on the cross on the same day. And as soon as he was on the cross, creation revealed that he was truly God: the sun grew black, and the day was turned into dark night from midday until the ninth hour.
At the Annunciation Mary becomes like the blossoming trees in spring, and like the tree which became Christ's cross: she bears new life to the world. The parallel reflects the ancient tradition which links Mary with scriptural images of the tree or the vine, frequently used in the liturgy on feasts of the Virgin - this, for instance. She is the root of Jesse from which grows the rod, the virgo who bears the virga. And if she is the vine and the tree, she is like the cross - most honoured among human beings and closest to Christ, as the tree of the cross is the most honoured among creatures of the natural world. (For a fascinating discussion of this imagery in light of the link between Mary and the tree/cross in the Anglo-Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood, see this book.) The later medieval hymn Lignum vitae quaerimus muses on the parallel:

Lignum vitae quaerimus,
Qui vitam amisimus
Fructu ligni vetiti...
Fructus, per quem vivitur,
Pendet, sicut creditur,
Virginis ad ubera,
Et ad crucem iterum
Inter viros scelerum
Passus quinque vulnera.
Hic virgo puerpera,
Hic crux salutifera,
Ambe ligna mystica;
Haec hysopus humilis
Illa cedrus nobilis,
Utraque vivifica.

We seek the tree of life,
We who lost life
Through the fruit of the forbidden tree...
The fruit which gives life
Hangs, as we believe,
Upon the Virgin's breast,
And again upon the cross
Between two thieves,
Pierced with five wounds.
Here, the child-bearing Virgin,
Here, the saving cross;
Both are mystic trees.
[The cross], the humble hyssop,
She, the noble cedar,
And both life-giving.

The name 'MARIA' as a tree bearing the fruit 'love', from a 15th-century English manuscript, BL Add. 37049, f. 26
(the poem beside it is 'In a tabernacle of a tower')

With Mary's Ave from the angel at the Annunciation began the work of redemption completed on Good Friday; and so, as many medieval writers note, her answer makes her the inverse of Eva, the means by which Eve’s sin is turned to good. In the Old English Martyrology, the next entry describes how on 26 March Christ descended into hell, to save Adam and Eve and all those who had died before his coming. Eve appeals to him by merit of her kinship with Mary:

Đær hine eac ongeaton Adam ond Eua, þær hi asmorede wæron mid deopum ðeostrum. Đa ða hi gesawon his þæt beorhte leoht æfter þære langan worolde, þær Eua hine halsode for Sancta Marian mægsibbe ðæt he hire miltsade. Heo cwæþ to him: ‘Gemyne, min Drihten, þæt seo wæs ban of minum banum, ond flæsc of minum flæsce. Help min forþon.’ Đa Crist hi butu ðonan alysde ond unrim bliðes folces him beforan onsende, ða he wolde gesigefæsted eft siðian to þæm lichoman.

Adam and Eve saw him there too, where they were stifled in deep darkness. When they saw his bright light, after that long age, Eve implored him there for the sake of her kinship with St Mary to have mercy on her. She said to him: ‘Remember, my Lord, that she was bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Help me for that reason!’ Then Christ released them both from that place and also sent a countless number of joyful people before them, when, triumphant, he set out to return to his body.

Crucifixion and Annunciation (BL Add. 44949, f. 5)

The traditional pairing of the Annunciation and the Crucifixion means that the two scenes are often depicted together in medieval art, as above in a fourteenth-century manuscript, and in the image at the top of this post. The first example from England is probably the one found on the eighth-century Ruthwell Cross, where a depiction of the Crucifixion was added directly below the Annunciation scene some time after the original design was completed:

Some six hundred years later, artists were still finding new ways to explore this conjunction. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, the idea inspired the development of a distinctive and beautiful image found almost uniquely in English medieval art: the lily crucifix. This iconography combines the Annunciation and the Crucifixion by depicting Christ crucified on a lily amid an Annunciation scene. The lily is the symbol of Mary, of course, and is often referenced in depictions of the Annunciation and in poetry about the Virgin; this idea grafts that flower imagery into the tradition which links Mary to the root of Jesse and the tree of the cross. Here's a gorgeous example of a lily crucifix from a Welsh manuscript, the Llanbeblig Hours, made at the end of the fourteenth century:

The Virgin sits under a green canopy, while Gabriel in green and red kneels facing her.

Another slightly later manuscript image can be seen here, but the lily crucifix is found in all kinds of media - there are estimated to be 19 surviving examples in all, ranging from painted screens and stained glass to carvings on stone tombs, misericords and wall-paintings. Here's a painted ceiling from the Lady Chapel of St Helen's Church, Abingdon, with the lily bearing the crucified Christ between Mary and the angel:

The rest of this impressive ceiling, which dates from c.1390, depicts the ancestors of Christ in a form of Jesse Tree. There are more pictures here.

Not far away in Oxford, there's a beautiful stained glass window of a lily crucifix in the church of St Michael at the Northgate:

This too was originally part of an Annunciation scene, though the other panels are now lost.

And here's a wonderful example in alabaster, now in the V and A, where a giant lily-stem carrying Christ soars right up into heaven:

Click to zoom in and study the detail! The top half of the panel is damaged, but clearly showed God the Father holding the crucified Christ, part of a common depiction of the Trinity - compare the image at the top of this post, and there are more examples collected here.

Mary and John at the foot of the cross (BL Sloane 2321, f.111v)

The lily cross flanked by two figures, Mary and the angel, offers a visual parallel to the usual Crucifixion scene, where Christ on the cross is attended by Mary and St John. One of the ways in which medieval Christians were most often encouraged to approach the Passion was by imagining and entering into Mary's emotions, to see Christ, as his mother might, as a vulnerable human child even at the moment of his death as an adult. There are many superb examples of poetic meditations on this subject - here's a particularly moving one, and more can be found here. This four-line poem is one of the best-known:

Nou goth sonne under wod,
Me reweth, Marie, thi faire rode.
Nou goth sonne under tre,
Me reweth, Marie, thi sone and thee.

[Now goes the sun under the wood,
I grieve, Mary, for your fair face;
Now goes the sun under the tree,
I grieve, Mary, for thy son and thee.]

Although so short and apparently so simple, this is full of meaningful wordplay: as the sun sets behind the wood, so Christ the Son is shrouded in darkness on the wood of the cross, the tree. Rode can mean both 'face', and rood, of course.

Another good example of a text which approaches the Passion through Mary's motherhood is 'Stond wel, Moder, under rode', with its explicit appeal to a female audience and its poignant comment that by her grief Mary learns to understand 'what pain they have that children bear'. In this poem Mary's situation, though so extraordinary, gives her kinship with all women who have lost children or found in motherhood grief as well as joy. The link between the Annunciation and the Crucifixion brings together in one circle the beginning and the end of Mary's motherhood, its joy and its sorrow, as well as completing the circle of Christ's life on earth.

Crucifixion (BL Harley 2851, f. 31)

However, although the Annunciation and the Crucifixion are so closely linked, they don't often occur on the same day. Good Friday fell on March 25 in 1608, too, when John Donne wrote this poem on the occasion:

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away.
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who’s all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall,
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angel’s Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is, and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or 'twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man, and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though one blood-drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all,
Or as though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

A paradoxical conjunction of feast and fast: was there ever a day more suited to metaphysical poetry? Although this wonderful poem is all so characteristically Donne, it explores many of the same parallels as the medieval texts and images we've already seen: the circle, the tree, beginnings and endings, and the two moments in the life of the Virgin, seen at once 'at almost fifty and at scarce fifteen'.

The coincidence of feasts gains rather than loses from being a rare occurrence, as Donne suggests - from falling 'some times and seldom'. It is, he says, an act of wisdom in the church, existing in time, to be moveable, while God is a fixed star, eternally the same. The overlapping cycles of the church's calendar offer many such conjunctions, which change every year as the fixed cycle intersects with the variable one. Although these coincidences often have their origin as much in pragmatic decisions about the calendar as in theology, with the kind of approach Donne exemplifies here they can be read in meaningful and imaginative ways. Through such eyes, a meeting of feasts like this year's is not exactly a coincidence, but perhaps one of those 'occasional mercies' of which Donne writes elsewhere: 'such mercies as a regenerate man will call mercies, though a natural man would call them accidents, or occurrences, or contingencies'. They are moments which seem to reveal a purpose behind the randomness of life, to show both natural and man-made events and seasons to be part of an ordered and carefully structured universe. It's the calendrical equivalent of a pun, like the medieval poet's 'sun under wood' or Donne's orbity - a place where meanings meet.

This year's conjunction is a particularly rich example, but all through the year these coincidental graces can be found, as beauty and meaning are produced by the changing juxtaposition of feasts and fasts, the fixed and the moveable seasons. Lent, Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsun - all can at various times coincide with different fixed occasions, different stages in the seasons of spring and summer, and the experience of each can accordingly change from year to year. As the cycles intersect in different ways, familiar texts and images breathe new life into each other, and bring forth new and different fruit (to borrow the Old English Martyrology's metaphor for Mary's conception). In such ways the interlocking wheels of the calendar give cosmic meaning to the cycle of our own days, months, and years.

Crucifixion with living tree, sun and moon (BL Arundel 60, f.12v)

Of course, a fixed date of Easter would do away with all this. As a medievalist, I found the discussion of the question of fixing a date for Easter a few months ago rather depressing. If there were any theological arguments under consideration, no one seemed to think it worthwhile to articulate them publicly; discussion focused mostly on solving the non-existent problem that some people (schools, maybe?) apparently find a movable date for Easter a bit inconvenient. I've never in my life heard anyone complain about being inconvenienced by the date of Easter, so I really struggle to imagine who considers this a pressing issue. And for that, churches would break with nearly two thousand years of tradition, a complex system worked out with great care and thought and invested over centuries with profound meaning. The fixed dates proposed for Easter are in April, so never again would Good Friday fall on the feast of the Annunciation. So much loss for so little gain!

Bede truly would be spinning in his grave. It strikes me (once again) that however much many people today, in their ignorance of all but the broadest stereotypes about the Middle Ages, stigmatise the medieval church as worldly, rigid, and oppressive, it was in some ways immeasurably more humane and creative than its modern successors. It was happy to see human life as fully part of the natural world, shaped by the cycles of the sun and moon and the seasons; it was able to articulate a belief that material considerations, convenience, and economic productivity are not the highest goods, and not the only standards by which life should be lived. When confronted by calendar clashes with the potential to be a little awkward or inconvenient, the medieval church could have the imagination not to simply suppress them or tidy them away, but to find meaning in them - meaning which springs from deep knowledge of the images and poetry of scripture, the liturgy, and popular devotion.

So enjoy the coincidence this year, this meeting of dates which has inspired preachers, poets, and artists through many centuries of Christian tradition. Unless you plan to live until 2157, you won't see another in your lifetime - and if the date of Easter is fixed, it will never happen again.


Patrick Sheridan said...

You overwhelm me at times, Clerk of Oxford. I congratulate you on a most insightful, very fine article.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a beautiful and illuminating piece of writing. I have learned such a lot from it that makes new sense to me. Wishing you many blessings at Easter,

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

I can't thank you enough for this post!

Felicity and Richard said...

A wonderful piece. A fixed date for Easter would sever our links with Judaism's dating of Passover by the moon and Islam's use of a lunar calendar. At this time marking the continuities and connectedness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is a counter to those who would so disastrously divide those faith communities.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Thank you!

David Wilson said...

One of your best, dear Clerk, heart-full and erudite, beautiful and illuminating, as ever. Many thanks.

jwripple said...

Astonishing - your best ever. Not quite overwhelmed like Patrick Sheridan, but close.

MBG said...

Yes, a wonderful piece.

I'm really interested in the use Money/Economic metaphors, so the last few lines of Donne's poem struck a chord for me. Thank you.

Also was looking for the right day to do my own Ritual.... this settles it. Tomorrow it is.

R Chellet said...

Fantastic. Thank you!

Thomas Hillman said...

You've outdone yourself. Thank you.

Thomas Hillman said...

I hope you won't mind that I am reblogging this post at

Christian K-N said...

A stunning piece of work! Thank you - real food for thought here.

Christian K-N said...

A really interesting piece of work - I hope there's someone in 2157 capable of recognising the event! Thank you so much for this and other posts!

Plantagenet Rose said...

This is fascinating! Thankyou so much!

Gail Finke said...

What a fascinating post, this is the first time I've seen your blog. Who in the world would ever want a fixed date for Easter? That's nutty.

Anonymous said...

There's none so young as likely to enjoy the next such conjunction: thank you for so fine and rich an appreciation of this, all our last!

An Old Mertonian

Anonymous said...

A distinct thank you for the lily-cross section, and especially the V & A panel and link to your 2013 post!

During Advent, I heard a fine lecture on the rhetoric of Bach's Weihnachtsoratorium, where the references to 'Gnadenthron' were explained as referring to just such Trinitarian images. Then, last week, I read in Pope Emeritus Benedict's latest (Oct. 2015) interview:

"In some parts of Germany there was a very moving devotion that contemplated the Not Gottes (“poverty of God”). For my part, that makes pass before my eyes an impressive image representing the suffering Father, who, as Father, shares inwardly the sufferings of the Son.

"And also the image of the 'throne of grace' is part of this devotion: the Father supports the cross and the crucified, bends lovingly over him and the two are, as it were, together on the cross.

"So in a grand and pure way, one perceives there what God’s mercy means, what the participation of God in man’s suffering means."

And now I catch up with your 2013 demonstration of how the image was spread through time and place in England, crowned by the lily-variant!

Thank you!

An Old Mertonian

Richard Rohlin said...

This is a stunning piece, even for you, Clerk. You have shed light on something which I think most of us had forgotten. Thank you.

Rat Bites said...

Another lily cross I once knew and loved well, at Long Melford

raffack said...

Dear Clerk, so glad to have bumped into you. Some friends are organising this which may interest you :
Very happy Easter!

Eccles said...

This is really very good, sister Clerk.

Ty said...

Thanks for this beautiful, insightful post. I couldn't help but think that one of the most profound theological reasons for trying to fix a date for Easter is the ecumenical reason. This may not require a "fixed" date, as the major traditions could agree to celebrate the Triduum together in a 'non-fixed' way (though I'm unsure of how this would go over with the Eastern Church's current calendrical guidelines).

Again, many thanks!

Anna said...

In the Roman Catholic church (western rite) the Annunciation is transferred when it falls on Good Friday, and in some Orthodox churches.The difficulty at least in the Orthodox jurisdictions seems to be liturgical, not being able to celebrate any Divine Liturgy/Mass, let alone a festal one, on Great and Holy Friday, rather than a theological clash.

Stephanie A. Mann said...

Thank you very much! Beautiful images and beautiful words!

Jonathan said...

I had at first appreciated the idea of fixing Easter, from the standpoint of gaining a unity of celebration for a larger part of Christ's whole Church; but having revisited Donne's poem and this lovely post and in view of your point above, I am persuaded. What a loss it would be for the holy confluences that arise in these moving days (also to note, it's the anniversary of the destruction of the ring ala papa Tolkien!) Instead of a fixed date perhaps our efforts should be bridging the gap between the Eastern and Western calendar.

John Nagy said...

My goodness, that is profound and rich and beautiful. I believe my faith has expanded today. Joyful and sorrowful at once. Glorious. Thank you.

Proudhon said...

My first visit here! Thank you for a wonderful essay.

Alison said...

A beautiful erudite piece. Thankyou for posting

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Not exactly on this topic but related is J. L. Heilbron's book The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories which discusses in depth the Catholic church's concerns to reconcile the lunar and solar calendars and examines why these two holy days rarely coincide. In their attempts to solve the problem, they became important in the history of astronomy.

jpk said...

A fixed date for Easter?!?! What authority does any Archbishop of Canterbury have to change a method for calculating Easter which was passed on from the Apostles?!? As Bede said: "Straightway all the taint of every heresy fell upon the island, ever desirous to hear some new thing, and never holding firm to any sure belief."

sophy0075 said...

What a wonderful matter to contemplate on this Good Friday: a mother, grieving at the sight of her child's suffering and death, while remembering a day thirty-odd years earlier, when she was told she would conceive and bear that child. Every mother recollects the birth of her daughter when her daughter is in labor. No mother wants to be in the circumstance of seeing the end of her child's life - that is a ring that is too painful and sad to bear. Thank you.l

Joseph said...

25th March 2035

Priscilla said...


Anonymous said...

Dame Helen Gardner notes Sir Herbert Grierson's reference to Sir John Beaumont's poem on the coincidence of the Annunciation and Easter in 1627 and observes "it was possibly inspired by Donne's":

An Old Mertonian

Albertus said...

You do us all a great service by your work here, My life is richer because of it. I am so grateful. What a gift you are giving!

Unknown said...

I'm glad to read somebody so articulate and learned who appreciates the beauties of the Middle Ages.

lyn said...

Thank you, for another thoughtful, beautifully illustrated post.

St Peter and St Paul, Seal said...

I love most of what you have written here, but I think we should think very carefully before rejecting the idea of a fixed Easter. If we do not fix Easter it is highly likely that the secular powers that be will create an early spring holiday, just as the lat May Bank Holiday was fixed to replace the Whitsun holiday. What happened as a result of that was that Whitsun entirely fell out of the popular consciousness. It has gone from being a popular holiday, with all sorts of customs attached to it, to a daythat is ignored and unknown to most people (including many Christians!). I find that the vast majority of people haven't even heard of the words Whitsun or Pentecost. The same thing would happen to Easter.
The traditional dates for feasts of the year were originally linked to secular, pre-Christian or agricultural celebrations anyway. Christians took note of when people were already celebrating and added their own symbolism, both out of a natural sense that these were the moments when celebration was "necessary" and also out of a pragmatic realisation that people would be more likely to accept Christianity if it didn't conflict with their existing feasts. In recognising that most people do now work to a fixed calendar the Church would be doing no more than it has always done. As for the links with Passover - it is rare for Easter and Passover exactly to coincide because their dates are already calculated in different ways.
I'm sorry to disagree with this one aspect of a beautiful blog post, but I have found many people - including schools and seasonal businesses, whch affect many people's lives - want a fixed Easter, and if we don't fix it, they will fix separate holiday instead and we will be left to celebrate Easter as we do Pentecost, largely on our own.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much,a brilliant post.

Rudy Kazooty said...

I can only repeat what others have said: brilliant post, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, insightful, learned as ever; a pleasure to read.

Forerunner said...

Thank you for such a richly detailed exploration of the texture and meaning of the Christian calendar. I've had misgivings I've been unable to voice thus far about the prospect of a fixed date for Easter.
Christians have coped adequately with date differences, and occasional conjunctions between Julian and Gregorian calendar observations over several centuries, so why use convenience as a justification for change?
Your exposition of the deep design inherent in the legacy of the Christian year is significant evidence to inform those leading the charge towards homogenisation. Might we now see the rise of a new wave of 'old-calendarism' I wonder?

Daniel Chan said...

I want to express my deep gratitude to you for making your thoughts available to us this way on this subject. I am not so articulate in the communication of this subject matter, but I do have a profound appreciation of the same. For some of us are blessed with the gifts of learning and teaching with joy, and others of us are blessed by you.

DaviGoss said...

Thank you for this wonderful article. - At St Aidan's Wheatley Hills, Doncaster, we included the Gospel and collect of the Annunciation in our Good Friday liturgy, this year. - I wish I had seen your article earlier so that might have informed my sermon.

Unknown said...

You have too many wonderful things in this post to enumerate—from Bede to Donne, and many works of art. I particularly appreciate your closing discussion of fixing the date of Easter. When I first heard of that, I felt just gobsmacked; why would anyone want to do that?

I'm glad you reposted the link today because I missed it when you first posted.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear 'Clerk of Oxford', what an enlightening piece of work on your part! I'm glad there are other Anglicans who regret the transposition of this important e Feast of Our Lady to 'another day'. In ACANZP, we have been directed to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation to the BVM on Monday, 4 April, which does allow for a purposeful remembrance of the occasion - outside of the Sacred Triduum and the Easter Season, but does, also, evade the implications of its connection with Good Friday.

Makes one think that your suggestion of a transposition to Mothering Sunday makes good sense - esxccept that it would become a 'movable Feast' in lieu of a fixed date

One does wonder what might happen to the Feast of the Annunciation if ever East and West decides on a 'fixed date' for Easter.

Joyfully said...

Best use of internet ever.

Jesus Calls Us said...

Indeed very illuminating! I learned an immeasureable amount from this article!

Mariangel said...

A most beautiful post! I discovered your blog on Good Friday thanks to a a friend, and loved to learn about this connection between the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, to read the old poems and see the lily crucifixes.

I have been reading some other of your posts since then. Congratulations on your wonderful work!

Sally Ridgers said...

Bit late to the table but what a fascinating read. Thankyou so much for posting.

Anonymous said...

Seeing a reproduction of a detail of Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son on a prayer card circulated in connection with the Jubilee of Divine Mercy - just the Father and the Prodigal Son (on our left in the full painting)after reading this post and following its link, I suddenly wondered if Rembrandt was consciously varying the iconography of the long-established (but not rigid) 'Throne of Mercy' imagery (which I mentioned in an earlier comment).

There must be a rich literature of this imagery 'out there, somewhere', but how to 'get onto its trail'?

An Old Mertonian

Radical Centrist said...

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