Today is a fairly rare occurrence in the liturgical calendar: it’s Good Friday, but it’s also Annunciation, March 25. The next time this will happen is 2157, if that gives you any idea. The Church holds off on celebrating Annunciation if it falls during Holy Week, and I’ve seen varying opinions on where to move it to, but just the fact that they both fell on the same day this year is incredibly fitting.
On Annunciation, we ponder how the Angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary and told her that she was to be the mother of the Savior. Through the word Gabriel spoke, the Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit — yet another example of how God’s Spirit is always present with and active through God’s Word. (March 25 is nine months before December 25, Christmas — get it?) So this is the day that the Word became flesh for us. Jesus took on a fully human nature, assumed from the Virgin Mary, which meant that now He would be born, grow, learn, eat, breathe, play, worship, live — and finally, die.
That’s what Good Friday is for. We focus on the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, who paid for all sins of all people of all time — including you, gentle reader. Yes, you! He looked ahead in time, and with you on His mind knew that one day He would go to the cross, and die. Just like we do, He too had a definite span to His days — only He did not stay dead. The celebration of that comes on the “third day”, Easter Sunday, but today, we meditate on just how much free forgiveness costs — the unutterably steep price Christ paid to redeem us for God.
Annunciation and Good Friday. On one, He takes on a human body, to share our human nature; on the other, He sacrifices that body on the tree of the cross and dies, so that we might be free from sin and death forever. Take off your shoes, friends, for here we stand before the central mystery of our faith: the Word made flesh, dying so that we might live. The eternal Son of God lays down His life, that we from death might be free forever. It deepens your appreciation for the gospel, doesn’t it?
John Donne wrote a poem on this same occasion in his lifetime. Read it, and take a moment for yourself to appreciate what really happened on Good Friday.
Annunciation, Good Friday — the focus is the same. The heart of the gospel: it’s all about Jesus. A blessed Annunication, and Good Friday, to you all.
On Annunciation and Passion Falling on the Same Day, 1609
by John Donne
TAMELY, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away ;
She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who’s all ;
She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall ;
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead ;
She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha ;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen ;
At once a son is promised her, and gone ;
Gabriell gives Christ to her, He her to John ;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity ;
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
Th’ abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one—
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east—
Of th’ angels Ave, and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s Court of Faculties,
Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
As by the self-fix’d Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th’other is, and which we say
—Because it strays not far—doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know,
And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar, doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud ; to one end both.
This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one ;
Or ’twas in Him the same humility,
That He would be a man, and leave to be ;
Or as creation He hath made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes ; He shall come, He is gone ;
Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all,
So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords.
This treasure then, in gross, my soul, uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.