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Description and comparative analysis of the celebrations of different religions and confessions


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4.4. Feast of the Annunciation
The feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year – exactly 9 months before Christmas. It is one of the Great Feasts in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It is counted as one of the 8 great feasts of the Lord, and not among the 4 great Marian feasts, although some prominent aspects of its liturgical observance are Marian. The date of the holiday is never transferred, even if it falls on Pascha (Easter). The concurrence of these two feasts is called Kyriopascha. Presently, Kyriopascha is possible only among the churches that observe the old style or traditional Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar.

According to the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce to her that she would conceive and bear a son, even though she "knew no man." According to holy tradition Mary had come home to her parents when she was only fifteen when she was visited by Gabriel.

Because the feast of the Annunciation normally comes during the season of Great Lent, the manner of celebration varies from year to year depending upon the particular day on which it falls. If the feast comes on a weekday of Lent, which is the most common case, the Divine Liturgy of the feast is served in the evening with Vespers and thus is celebrated after a full day of total abstinence. When this happens, the fasting rules for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts are followed.

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast.

The Annunciation is one of the most frequent subjects of Christian art. It appears invariably in cycles portraying the Life of the Virgin, and is often included as the initial scene in those of the Life of Christ. The composition of depictions is very consistent, with Gabriel, normally standing on the left, facing the Virgin, who is generally seated or kneeling. Typically Gabriel is shown in near-profile, while the Virgin faces more to the front. Very often the angel is posed at a respectful distance from Mary, separated by a real or pictured architectural detail such as a column. The two may even be placed in separate wings of a polyptych or on opposite sides of a physical arch. Annunciation images often include lilies, symbolizing purity.

The scene is portrayed either indoors, or in a porch or a garden. The building can be the Virgin's home, but it often represents the Jerusalem Temple, as some legendary accounts placed the scene there. The Virgin may be shown reading, or engaged in a domestic task.

The Annunciation XIV CE Orthodox icon. From the Church of St Clement in Ohrid, Macedonia.Unknown artist, first quarter of the 14th century.

Annunciation of Ustyug. By an unknown twelve century artist of the Novgorod iconography school in Rus.

Da Vinci Annunciation. By Leonardo da Vinci possibly together with Andrea del Verrocchio circa 1472–1475.

Cestello Annunciation. Italian renaissance artist Sandro Boticelli completed this definitive masterpiece in 1489. The dramatic tension comes from the gesture of Mary who moves away from Gabriel while reaching toward him at the same time.

Van Eyck Annunciation. The Annunciation is an oil painting by the Early Netherlandish master Jan van Eyck, from around 1434-1436. It is a highly complex work, rich in symbolism that is still debated by art historians.


The Annunciation of the Theotokos - Exploring the Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church
In this video, we follow the Orthodox Church’s commemoration of the event, and the different elements involved in its celebration.

Icons Explained: The Annunciation
An example of a theologically rich icon of the Annunciation with detailed interpretation of the canonical imagery and symbolism.

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation
Dr Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker discuss the famous fresco on Khan academy.

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Nazareth
Short documentary about the Christian temple in Nazareth built upon the grotto that has been identified as the place of the annunciation.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.