Question: "What is the Annunciation?"
Answer: The word annunciation comes from a Latin word meaning “to bring news.” The Latin Vulgate uses the phrase annuntiatio navitatis Christi (“the announcement of Christ’s birth”) to refer to the announcement made by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary about the impending birth of Christ. The Annunciation brought news of the Incarnation.
In Luke 1:26–39, Gabriel arrives at the home of a young Jewish girl named Mary, a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, to tell her that she would become pregnant by means of the Holy Spirit. When the baby was born, she was to call Him Jesus, a name that means “The Lord Is Salvation.” The angel also tells Mary that the baby she would bear would rule an everlasting kingdom and be called “the Son of the Highest.”
The Annunciation is dear to Christians because it is a prophecy of the Savior’s birth, a herald of the grace and peace that would come to mankind from God through Jesus Christ. The Annunciation was a main subject of Christian art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with the virgin and the angel commonly used as symbols of purity and grace. The Feast of Annunciation is observed on March 25 by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the emphasis is placed on Mary as the Theotokos, or “mother of God.” It is unfortunate that Gabriel’s announcement, which lifts up Jesus as “the holy one” and “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), should be reinterpreted as an occasion for lifting up Mary, the humble recipient of God’s grace (Luke 1:30, 46–48).
Interestingly, the Qur’an also mentions the Annunciation, though it omits the references to Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and His everlasting kingdom, calling Him only an honored person who will be near to Allah in this present world and the hereafter. This faulty understanding of Jesus is commonly held by other religions. The only religion that claims Jesus is the Son of God is Christianity.
The virgin birth had been foretold (Isaiah 7:14), and “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4–5). Mary was chosen as the woman through whom the Messiah came. The good news that was to change the whole world came first to Mary in an event we now call the Annunciation.