March 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation
Blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin

Rev. Matthew Mauriello

Each year on March 25, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This great feast takes its name from the tidings announced by the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary concerning the Incarnation of the Son of God.

It is interesting to note why this celebration of the conception of Jesus Christ is celebrated on the particular date of March 25. In the early third century, Tertullian (+220) states definitely that Our Savior died on the cross on March 25. This is confirmed by St. Hippolytus of Rome (+235) as well as St. Augustine (+431) in his Treatise. De Trinitate (iv, 5) which states that, "Jesus died on the cross on March 25, the same day of the year as that on which He was conceived. "

 
This date then, became the starting point for the Christmas cycle, since nine months from the Annunciation is the placement of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. His circumcision follows on the eighth day, January 1, and His presentation in the Temple, the fortieth day after His birth at Bethlehem is placed on February 2. The birth of the forerunner of the Lord, St. John the Baptist falls on June 24, since the angel told Mary at the Annunciation that " Elizabeth, your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age and is now in her sixth month for nothing is impossible with God. " (Luke l :36-37)
[Mary Alone]

El Greco
Detailed

The Annunciation has its main focus on the Incarnation: God became man to save us. The prayers of the Mass as well as the preface stress the title virgin for Mary. A further theme of the liturgy is the first beginnings of the Church as expressed in the Prayer over the Gifts.

Scripturally, both the Gospel of St. Matthew 1:18-25 and that of St. Luke 1:26-38 provide explicit evidence for Mary's virginal conception of Jesus. The Church teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. Mary conceived Jesus in her womb "by the power of the Most High," (Luke 1:35) without the loss of her virginity. (Catechism, no.485) "She remained a virgin in giving birth to Jesus: His miraculous birth did not diminish her virginal integrity but sanctified it " (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 57) Following the birth of Jesus, Mary remained a virgin the rest of her earthly life, until she was taken body and soul into heaven, where she reigns as Queen. (LG, 59)

Mary's virginity became the first problem of the Patristic Age. St. Justin the Martyr (+165) points to Isaiah 7:14 in his treatise, Against Trypho, who changed parthenos (virgin) to almah (young girl) in the Septuagint translation of the Sacred Scriptures. Both St. Ireneus (+202) and Tertullian (+220) agree with St. Justin. St. Zeno of Verona (+372) was the first to refer to Mary's virginity as ante paltum, in partu; post paltum, that is before birth, during birth and after birth.
[Mary Alone]

Luberoff
Contemporary

St. Ambrose of Milan (+397) along with St. Jerome (+420) defended the Perpetual virginity of Mary against Jovinian and Helvidius, respectively, whose writings stated that Mary had other children. The great Latin Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, supports the perpetual virginity of Mary and compares it to the Resurrection of the Lord who had the power to "pass through closed doors. ''(In.20:19)

The Council of Nicea in the year 325 approved the formula ex Maria virgine, meaning born of the Virgin Mary and inserted it into the Creed. This was later confirmed by the Second Council of Constantinople in the year 553 and by the non-ecumenical Lateran Council, under Pope St. Martin I which, in 649, promulgated the perpetual virginity of Mary. The Sixth Ecumenical Council, Constantinople ill in 681, accepted this canon without question and thereby clearly confirmed its dogmatic character.

It is important to understand Mary's perpetual virginity in light of the mystery of Christ. (Ephesians 3:4,11) All of us are exhorted to imitate the great virtues of Mary: her fidelity, discipleship, charity and purity. (Lumen Gentium, 63-64) Her perpetual virginity primarily and unmistakably points to the importance of the Incarnation the Mystery of the Eternal Word becoming flesh in Mary's womb without the intervention of a human father, in a marriage of the human and the divine through the marvelous plan of Almighty God.


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