|12th century Sinai Icon|
Today's feast will be very art-centric at our house, if you can't tell. The Annunciation is probably the most-painted Biblical subject in the West. The subjects are simple (just an angel, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and usually some architecture and fleur-de-lis, representing Mary's virginity). If your kids are studying a particular artist or art style, I'm sure you can google and find a relevant Annunciation. It's also very easy to compare styles using 15 or so representative Annunciations, since the subject is so simple.
After reading the account, we'll talk about which paintings we like best and why, what parts properly reflect the Biblical account, and which are the artists' imagination.
*In Greek the feast of the Annunciation is called Euangelismos ("spreading the Good News"). Truly the Good News began at the Incarnation, and culminated at Jesus' Death and Resurrection. I'm going to try to tie Jesus' conception and birth to our daily Lenten themes (we have been dwelling on Jesus' sufferings and death).
*March 25th began the New Year from 525-1752, "since the era of grace begins with the incarnation of Christ." When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, it was moved to January 1.
*Traditionally, John the Baptist's and Jesus's conception dates are also their death dates (borrowing an older Jewish tradition that prophets died or were martyred on their birthdays).
* Today is Name-Day for all Marys, Marias, Maries, etc. The babe in my womb will be a Mary Elizabeth, if it is a girl. (Does anyone know why today is the Name-Day, and not August 15th?)
* In some places in Europe this day is called "The Feast of the Swallows," since around March 25 the swallows return from their winter home. (Austrian saying: "When Gabriel does the message bring / Return the swallows, comes the spring" ).
* Talk about when life begins, and pray to God to protect all unborn babies. Lutheran's for Life has some helpful resources, including this article.
* Talk about what fleur-de-lis (or just lilies in general) represent in art. Originally they symbolized Christ's purity (think Easter), but eventually they came to represent Mary's chastity and virginity, and reference Song of Songs 2:2 "As a lily among brambles /so is my love among the young women." Of course, this verse can be read as Christ speaking of his Church, but it is acceptable to see Mary as a type (symbol) of the Church, or New Jerusalem.
I find it interesting that in many of the paintings above, the angel is holding the lily, or giving it to Mary. Christ's purity covers His mother's guilt, even while he is being conceived.
*Listen to Bach's Cantata BWV 1 "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern" Lyrics here. Recordings here and here.
*Coloring pages: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3