For Orthodox Christians on the New Calendar, today is the feast of the Annunciation. For western Christians, today is Good Friday. It would also be the Annunciation for them, but on the western liturgical calendar, when Good Friday falls on March 25, the celebration of the Annunciation is moved.
That hasn’t always been the case. In 1609, the conjunction of the Annunciation with Good Friday resulted in one of the most sublime poems in the English language.
Upon the Annunciation and Passion
by John Donne
Tamely, frail body, abstain to-day; to-day
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,
Th’ abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one—
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east—
Of th’ angel’s Ave, and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s Court of Faculties,
Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
As by the self-fix’d Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th’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 those 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 hath 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,
So 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.
The Second Death of Lazarus: A poem by Nicholas Samaras.
Implications of the Annunciation: On this feast, we celebrate the moment that the uncontainable God was contained in a virgin’s womb.
St. Gregory, the Saint of Three Names: Besides being a theologian, St. Gregory was also a poet.