Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Annunciation of Our Lord

A while back there was some interesting banter on what to do with the Annunciation of Our Lord since it falls on a Sunday this year (March 25).  There were those who thought it was proper according to the somewhat idiosyncratic rubrics of LSB to observe it even during Lent (for those using the 3 year series but not the historic, one year series of lessons).  Others insisted that nothing ever displaces a Sunday in Lent.  I suppose it is all rather boring and inconsequential to most of you but I can assure it is neither (at least to me).

Pr. Heath Curtis (author of the Daily Divine Service Book and therefore an "expert") wrote:
No - nothing trumps Lent, even the Annunciation. When the latter falls on a Sunday, it is transferred to the first free weekday after Easter.  LSB allows the supplanting of a Sunday in Lent, but this is indicative of LSB's general permissiveness toward widespread practice and should not be read as a suggestion of what the best practice might be. The Historic Lectionary's Lent is a logical progression and something more than just one Sunday is lost if one Sunday is replaced.

Pr. Weedon (an expert who soon will sport the Synodical job title to go with his expertise) wrote:
Which has priority?  I'd draw attention to the rubric found on page 960 of Lutheran Service Book:  Altar Book: It is appropriate to observe this feast day in all its fullness during Lent.  However, according to historical precedent, when the Annunciation falls during Holy Week or on Easter Day (or also on the Fifth Sunday in Lent in the one-year series), it should not be observed at those times but may be transferred to a weekday following the Second Sunday of Easter.  

Thus, acceding to our rite, it would be appropriate for those of you who follow the Three-Year lectionary to observe the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 and simply omit the fifth Sunday in Lent.  However, since those parishes that follow the One-Year lectionary enter into Passion-tide on the fifth Sunday in Lent, it is NOT appropriate for Annunciation to replace the observance of Judica.  Thus, just as there is a difference between the lectionaries on the observance of Transfiguration, so there is also a difference this year on the priority of Annunciation.  Three-year folks may (and really ought*) to celebrate it; one year folks will have to wait till after Judica to celebrate it.

*See the footnote on p. xi of Lutheran Service BookThe observances listed in boldface are principal feasts of Christ and are normally observed when they occur on a Sunday. 

[I am sure you all noted how I put the discussion of the rubrics in red -- since that is the root meaning of the word rubric.]

Anyway, my point is this.  The choices made in the lectionary are not simple preferences but bring theological import to bear.  Certain feasts and festivals are of the first order because they are feasts and festivals of Christ or very closely connected to Christ.  In other words, there is a pecking order at work here.

Pr. Rick Stuckwish explains the perspective of LSB as:
Regarding the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, it is one of the most difficult feasts to deal with, in terms of its priority. It is one of the most venerable and important feasts in the church's calendar, yet it occurs in the midst of Lent (a fact that rather invites reflection upon its theological significance). We also have to contend with the fact that the approach of the actual congregations of the Lord's Church to the observance of festivals is not what it used to be, for good or for ill. Nor is Lent observed in the same way, even if one considers only the broad differences between the historic and three-year lectionaries. So attempting to lay down absolute or universal rules of precedence is a particular challenge. As in most aspects of the LSB, especially where the pew edition is concerned, we took a minimalistic approach and exercised a "light touch" in regards to such rubrics.

And that is my point.  The Annunciation of Our Lord is by all accounts one of the most ancient and venerable feasts on the Church's calendar yet, because it falls during Lent, it is seldom even acknowledged.  And why do we keep this feast?  Because it relates to one of the most significant and grandest mysteries of the faith -- the Incarnation of our Lord.  You cannot have a baby without a conception and that is why, nine months before Christmas, we have a conception through the Word of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit, with an Archangel bearing the consequential news.  Interestingly, the date of the Annunciation may well have set the date of Christmas -- and not the other way around.  But that is for another post...  Suffice it to say that Lutherans should not forget this important feast whether it is transferred to another day or observed on its Sunday.  It is very important to our confession of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ...


Rebekah said...

I am absolutely not an authority so this is merely a personal observation based on speculation. But if I may be so bold as to speculate personally on a lofty matter: it seems very like Our Lady to surrender pride of place.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate and respect where you came down on this, Pastor Peters. It called to mind this passage from the blessed apostle:

"One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Ro. 14:5-9).

Blessed Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord to you and yours whatever day you celebrate it.

Pr. John Rutz

Jeremy Loesch said...

We had Annunciation today. We're a three-year church. Back in January when I was planning Lent, I did note the lessons for the Fifth Sunday in Lent and also noted that today was March 25th. I did wrestle internally with what Sunday to observe. I think our congregation needed to hear Annunciation today. It does look ahead nine months, yet it also looks ahead to Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. All of those things needed a beginning, and the beginning of Christ's earthly life was today.

The lessons for Fifth Sunday in Lent were really good. I could have developed a good sermon from those texts. I thought to myself, "I'll catch those lessons in 2015."


Chris said...

Western Rite churches really need a typicon. We don't have this kind of problem in the East.