We Announce that The Annunciation is Delayed

The Annunciation celebrates Christ’s Incarnation. Every year we celebrate The Annunciation on 25th March. This year (2024), however, we don’t; instead we celebrate The Annunciation on 8th April. We also postponed The Annunciation in 2013, 2016, and 2018, and shall do so again in 2027, 2029, 2032, and 2035. In each of these years, March 25th falls in Holy Week, except 2035 when Easter Sunday falls on March 25th.

The Annunciation is the Incarnation

The Annunciation is one of the most important feasts in the Church’s calendar. It celebrates the day the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that God desired for her to become the Mother of the Saviour. Mary’s ‘Fiat‘ (Latin for ‘Let it be’) allowed the Incarnation, when God became man in the Virgin Mary’s womb. Therefore, The Annunciation celebrates Christ’s Incarnation. Without Mary’s ‘Yes’ there would be no Christmas and no Easter, and we would still be in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). We remember the Incarnation every time we pray the Angelus. Monks and priests (and others) pray the Angelus morning, noon, and evening every day except between Easter and Pentecost, when we pray the Regina Caeli.

An icon of The Annunciation

Those five words, ‘except between Easter and Pentecost’ explain why The Annunciation is postponed this year. Christ was born so that He could die and rise again, and so free us from the eternal death brought about by the Fall. The Resurrection is the most important feast in Christianity because by rising Christ restored us to life, as we reply to the Mystery of Faith in the Mass. Christ’s death and Resurrection are more important than anything else. Even The Annunciation takes second place to the Resurrection.

Holy Week the Triduum, and Easter

Easter is a ‘movable feast’, not celebrated on a fixed date. It changes each year according to the full moon. (Easter is always the Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st.) Because it is so important, we celebrate Easter for a full eight days, from Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday. No other feast can be more important than Easter, so we do not celebrate other feasts that week.

An icon of the Crucifixion

The week before Easter is called Holy Week. It ends with the Easter Triduum (‘three days’) from Thursday evening to the Easter Vigil. The whole time from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, to the celebration of the Resurrection at the Easter Vigil is one multipart liturgy. We pass from sorrow to joy (Jn 16:20).

From Palm Sunday to the Wednesday of Holy Week we are in the final stages of preparing for Easter. Just as with the Easter Octave, nothing takes priority over these days. Most feasts are dropped from the calendar that year, just as they are if they fall on a Sunday. The only two general exceptions are the Solemnities of St Joseph and The Annunciation. The Church puts these back until after the Easter Octave. (Benedictine monks also put the The Passing of St Benedict back until after the Easter Octave.) When these feasts fall on a Sunday in Lent (before Palm Sunday) we celebrate them on the following Monday.

The Resurrection

Holy Week is a time for increasing our prayer before Easter. If we have slipped up in our Lenten penances, we can make one last effort. Nothing else gets in the way of Holy Week. When we get into the true spirit of Holy Week, we can celebrate Easter all the more heartily.

The Resurrection is the highlight of our faith. It was when they saw the risen Jesus that the disciples became filled with joy after their sorrow at the crucifixion. They saw Jesus and they knew that death had been conquered. Our baptism was a form of death and resurrection into new life with Christ. Every Easter we remind ourselves of this when we renew our baptismal promises.

An icon of the Resurrection

The Annunciation in the Past

Until 1751, March 25th was also New Year’s Day in England, Wales and Ireland. Many other countries also started the year on March 25th. The Annunciation, which celebrates Christ’s Incarnation, is so important that it was seen as the best time to start the year. Easter is the new creation, when Christ’s Resurrection started the world on a new path to life with God, but it could not have happened without the Incarnation.

In 1750, Parliament passed a law adopting the Gregorian calendar, authorised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. This calendar allowed for the fact that the year is slightly less than 365.25 days long. The Julian calendar, brought in by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, gave us a leap year every 4 years. The Gregorian calendar made century years normal years execept for 1600, 2000, 2400, etc. New Year’s Day 1751 was 25th March and New Year’s Day 1752 was 1st January. Most of Europe had already switched to the Gregorian calendar and adjusted the date for the errors in leap years since 325 (the Council of Nicea). Britain made the change in date on Wednesday 2nd September 1752, which was followed by Thursday 14th September. The tax office, however, did not want to lose 11 days tax. Therefore, the start of the tax year changed from 25th March to 6th April. Scotland switched New Year’s Day to 1st January in 1600 but still followed the Julian calendar until 1752.