Annunciation — The Day of the Unborn Child 1

Why is the Feast of the Annunciation so important to the pro-life movement?
In recent years perceptive pro-life parents began annual celebrations of their children’s “First Days” nine months before their birthdays–recognizing that if everyday practices don’t reflect the reality of their beliefs they send a destructively mixed message. Though many of them were faithful Christians, few of them recognized that Christ’s “first day” of human life passed by every year virtually unnoticed by the majority of believers; commonly there was no obvious celebration either private or public–those churches that observed the feast had services for the day, but attendance was generally no greater than a normal daily mass. And this was no ordinary “first day,” for unlike the natural conception of children who are created beings, this was the moment that Christ the Eternal Word became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit–it was the “first day” only of His human earthly life that he shared with us. This is what Christians call the Incarnation–the moment God became man. As the word “incarnate” (to be made flesh) implies, this was accomplished not when Jesus reached adulthood, or was revealed to the world at his birth–it happened when he took on human flesh at his conception in Mary’s womb. The Incarnation as an event had a specific time and place, as simply stated on a plaque in Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation: “Verbum caro hic factum est”–“the Word was made flesh here.” The pro-life significance of this statement in the context of the Annunciation is addressed in an American Life League article (on cloning) that reprints the first chapter of professor John Saward’s “Redeemer in the Womb.” In reflecting upon this momentous occasion, we can find inspiration to combat the “out of sight out of mind” tendency that attaches itself to all hidden realities, even the central reality of the Incarnation. If the Christian community as a whole does not consistently recognize and honor the conception and prenatal life of Christ who is God, then it should come as no surprise that the secular world has so little regard for the newly conceived life of an “unplanned” child, who is neither divine nor anxiously awaited nor announced by angelic herald, but is simply unwanted, like so many others. It is essential for all Christians to not only remember but celebrate the fact that the Word was made flesh in Nazareth nine months before Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Fortunately it is not necessary to wholly invent a “first day” tradition for Christ. Early in Christendom (probably the 400’s) Christ’s first day was already memorialized. Now known as the Feast of the Annunciation, officially it is still the principal feast of the Incarnation, and was universally celebrated by the 600’s. In the past it had been named Festum Incarnationis and Conceptio Christi–which made it clear that it was the conception of Christ that was being commemorated. Celebrating March 25th in remembrance of this reality (and as The Day of the Unborn Child as many nations are now doing) will be a wonderful spiritual counterpart to the celebration of Christmas, which has unfortunately become so commercialized and secularized. Keep in mind also that the Annunciation is not only one of the most frequently depicted events in art, but is also the most frequently depicted conception. It is quite remarkable that an event that takes place unseen inside the human body should become one of the most popular iconic themes for a visual medium like painting. Wouldn’t it be tragic if such potentially powerful pro-life imagery were lost on even the most faithful Christians because they were never taught the significance of the Annunciation as the occasion of Christ’s Incarnation and therefore don’t see its powerful pro-life implications. (For more on the Annunciation in art, read A Note On The Artwork). In sum, raising awareness of the meaning of the Christian feast whose date has been adopted for a secular pro-life day of remembrance complements that cause, just as Christian clergy assisted secular civil rights workers in the 1960’s. The participation of an ordained Christian minister like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who frequently referenced God in his civil rights speeches) did not limit his movement, or make voting rights an exclusively religious issue. Likewise Christian understanding of the Annunciation will not interfere with but may actually be a necessary step on the way to establishing the Day Of The Unborn Child as an annual secular memorial. []

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