All About the Solemnity of the Annunciation

Annunciation Definition and Summary

The solemnity of the Annunciation commemorates when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation falls exactly nine months before Christmas.

Prayers: Annunciation Prayers

Basic Facts About the Annunciation Feast

Liturgical Color(s): White

Type of Holiday: Solemnity

Time of Year: March 25

Duration: One day

Celebrates/Symbolizes: Announcement of the incarnation by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, and the conception of Christ in her womb

Alternate Names: Lady Day

Scriptural References: Luke 1:26-38


The story of the Annunciation (i.e., "the announcing"), from the Latin annuntiare, is recounted in Luke's Gospel. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a Son, and his name will be "Jesus," meaning "The Lord saves." The angel's greeting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you," has echoed down through the ages in many prayers, and is known as the "Hail Mary."

Mary was initially confused as to how she would bear God's Son, since she was a virgin. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon on her. This is why when we recite the Nicene creed we say "by the Holy Spirit [Jesus] was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man." The Apostles' Creed likewise affirms that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit." Thus, the Feast of the Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus' miraculous life, and it begins with the theotokos conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power.

Mary's response to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," (Latin: ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) is a statement of humble faith and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. This response is called Mary's fiat, from the Latin word meaning "let it be done." The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the significance of Mary's faith in relation to her role as Christ's mother:

By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body (973).


The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to at least the sixth century and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. In the West, the first authentic reference is in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the seventh century. The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656), and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the latter council, the feast is exempted from the Lenten fast.

The oldest observance of the day is on March 25, although in Spain the feast was at times celebrated on December 19 to avoid any chance of the date falling during the Lenten season. March 25 is obviously nine months before Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Scholars are not completely sure whether the date of the Annunciation influenced the date of Christmas, or vice versa. Before the Church adopted fixed days of celebration, early Christians speculated on the dates of major events in Jesus' life. Second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa tried to find the day when Jesus died. By the time of Tertullian (d. AD 225) they had concluded that He died on Friday, March 25, AD 29 (although this is actually an impossibility, since March 25 in the year AD 29 was not a Friday). How does the day of Jesus' death relate to the day of his conception? This is because of the Jewish concept of the "integral age" of the great Jewish prophets: the notion that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception. Therefore, if Jesus died on March 25, he was also conceived that day. The pseudo-(John)Chrysostomic work de solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis nostri Iesu Christi et Iohannis Baptistae accepts the same calculation. Saint Augustine mentions it as well. Other ancient Christians believed Jesus was conceived on March 25 for another reason: they believed (based on Jewish calculations of the period) that the creation of the world occurred that day. Thus, it was fitting that the one who makes us new creations was conceived on the day the world was created. For more information on this subject check out The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Of interest, the Feast of the Annunciation is one of the four "Quarter Days" in the Church. These are days that fall around the equinoxes or solstices and mark the beginnings of the natural seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. These Quarter Days were Christian feast days used in medieval times to mark "quarters" for legal purposes. The other days Quarter Days are the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (June 24), Michaelmas (September 29), and Christmas (December 25).

Worship and Prayer Resources

Prayers and Collects for the Feast of the Annunciation

Symbols and Typology

Symbols: Budding fleur-de-lis, lily, dove, two interlocked circles

Old Testament Typology Foreshadowing the Annunciation: Announcement of the birth of Isaac (Genesis 17:1-27 and Genesis 18:1-15), announcement of the birth of Samson (Judges 13) announcement of the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 1-20), God, from the burning bush, announcing Israel's deliverance (Exodus 3-4)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if the Annunciation Feast falls on a day during Holy Week or Easter week? In the Western Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast is moved if necessary to prevent it from either falling on a Sunday, or during Holy Week or Easter week. To avoid a Sunday, the previous Saturday (March 24) would be observed instead. In years when March 25 falls during Holy Week or Easter Week, the Feast of the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday). Folk belief is that it is bad luck when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday.


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Updated 03-25-2019