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Ordinary Time 2017

23 March 2016
Donne, John - "Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day"

This year brings a special moment that I've been waiting for since... well, for years.

That is the confluence of Good Friday and the Feast of the Annunciation (Mar. 25).

Now, before you get all huffy, yes, I know this feast is transferred.

In Holy Week (the week from Palm Sunday to Easter) and in Easter Week (the week from Easter to the following Sunday) all "lesser feasts" are transferred to later in the calendar. This makes sense. This is the holiest time of the church year, and our focus should rightly be on our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection. This year the Episcopal Church will formally celebrate this feast on April 4 (Jesus needing a shorter than usual gestation period this year).

But still, the fact remains that in many circumstances Mar. 25 would be the day that the Church remembers the announcement to a young girl, a virgin, that she was pregnant with God.

So for Anglicans, who are Christians who do theology with a heavy dose of big-I Incarnation, there is at least a unique opportunity for theological exploration here. And it's one that was written beautifully 408 years ago by John Donne.

What happened in 1608? Please note that the date that I have for this poem is 1608. But Easter was on April 6 that year, so maybe Donne was actually writing about something else? Oh, no, have I been waiting for the wrong day?! I don't think so.

How often is Good Friday on March 25? This last occurred in 2005, which is when I drafted this article (thanks, Internet!). When does it happen again? Well, I can't find it on my calendar for a while...

Upon the Annunciation and
Passion Falling upon One Day.
1608

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
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;
Gabriel 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,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angels’ Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the 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 these 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 had 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 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.

             – John Donne

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