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This year, Good Friday falls on March 25. But by tradition, March 25 is also the day when we celebrate the Annunciation. So this year – on the same day we remember Jesus being hung on a cross – we would normally also celebrate “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus.” However:
The Annunciation would normally fall on Friday, March 25, 2016. That day, however, is Good Friday, and Annunciation is never celebrated during Holy Week. It is transferred, therefore, to Monday, April 4, 2016, the first open day after Easter Sunday.
And speaking of the Annunciation, last year I posted The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling.” I noted the metaphor of how the original early Church Fathers got that March 25 date by “figuring it backwards:”
It all started with the birth of Jesus. The early Church Fathers decided first that the celebration would be on December 25. (For reasons explained further below.) Then they figured backwards, nine months. Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25. That’s where the Annunciation comes in.
And incidentally, the image above left is El Greco‘s interpretation of the Annunciation.
I also noted how December 25 got picked as Jesus’ birthday. It had to do with the winter solstice, “the shortest day and the longest night of the year.” Back in the olden days, our primitive ancestors started worrying; “there was never any certainty that the sinking Sun would ever return… So about mid-December those old-time people kept worrying that the days would keep getting shorter and shorter, until there was nothing but eternal night.”
Which makes that the perfect complement to Good Friday, on which the liturgical color is black.
That is, beginning at the end of the evening Maundy Thursday service – in the Western church – the altar is stripped. Also, “the clergy no longer wear the purple or red that is customary throughout Great Lent, but instead don black vestments.”
But as we know, there is a happy ending.
For more on particular-church practices on Good Friday, see Wikipedia. But the general theme is revisiting “the events of the day through public reading of specific Psalms and the Gospels, and singing hymns about Christ’s death.” Other practices include fasting and acts of reparation.
But during all those Good Friday hours of fasting, penance and remembering, don’t forget the real “reason for the season.”
That would be exemplified by the El Greco painting at right.
That painting “shows Jesus – the Risen Messiah – ‘in a blaze of glory … holding the white banner of victory over death.’” (See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.)
Note also that the Annunciation is celebrated about the time of the vernal equinox. (Vernal is from the Latin word for “spring.”)
The Incarnation … is the belief that [Jesus], “became flesh” by being conceived in the womb of Mary… [The idea is that the Son of God] took on a human body and nature and becameboth man and God. In the Bible its clearest teaching is in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” The Incarnation is commemorated and celebrated each year at Christmas, and also reference can be made to the Feast of the Annunciation; “different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation” are celebrated at Christmas and the Annunciation.
(See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.) In other words, before Jesus could perform His greatest miracle, he had to pay the price of going through Good Friday.
And that could be another way of saying that both the Good Friday Experience and the Joyful Easter Experience that followed were all part of the rich tapestry of life. On the part of Jesus, that is. (And through Him, something we can experience as well…)
Which in turn is another way of saying “When one door closes, another one opens.”
That’s a famous saying, and it’s variously attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, or to Helen Keller, or to “the 21st chapter of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes’s classic, “Don Quixote.” (And incidentally, here’s the rest of the quote: “…but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”)
So here’s the real reason for the season: To remember the door that Jesus “opened for us.”
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The upper image is courtesy of Annunciation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The caption: “The Annunciation – Johann Christian Schröder.” As to Good Friday on the same date at the Annunciation:
Because the sacrifice of Jesus through his crucifixion is commemorated on this day, the Divine Liturgy (the sacrifice of bread and wine) is never celebrated on Great Friday, except when this day coincides with the Great Feast of the Annunciation, which falls on the fixed date of 25 March (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar…