You might have clicked to the fact that Good Friday this year was marked on March 25 which would normally have been the feast of the Annunciation celebrating the conception of Jesus. There is an ancient Christian tradition that Jesus was conceived and died on the same date, but we will have to wait 141 years for these events to coincide in date again. Bosco Peters on his Liturgy website gives a great summary of this coincidence.
So this year we celebrated the shifted feast of the Annunciation of the Lord a couple of days ago on Monday 4 April and I’ve been pondering the event in the hours since.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit an exhibition of the works of Henry Ossawa Tanner. His Annunciation (pictured) moved me deeply. It’s something about the young woman perhaps rising from sleep being suddenly encountered by the presence she knows to be her God. The light breaks unexpectedly into her early morning routine, or perhaps even more unexpectedly into her bedtime ritual.
While this event is striking enough, the most significant fact is that Mary recognised the moment of light as the presence of God. It was Mary’s recognition that led to her positive response, and it was her ability to recognise and respond to God that changed not only the rest of her own life, but all of human existence from that moment forward. As I write this reflection this morning I know that my life has meaning and potential precisely because of Mary’s yes to God a couple of thousand years ago.
Last weekend’s daylight saving has brought dawn within reach of most of us, and this morning here in Canterbury the sunrise was spectacular even from the first moments of light touching the darkness. But how many of us saw the break of this new day as a moment of potential and promise, a gift from God when the morning brings joy to break through the tears of the night. (Psalm 30)
The dawn of Easter Sunday is now a week past, and how quickly we forget the life-changing, darkness-shattering reality of this event. Even the week of Easter Sundays in the Easter Octave is not enough to keep the light alive for us. Without our active awareness the six weeks of Eastertide has little impact and we all too easily slip back into survival mode little more than enduring our struggles and burying our burdens.
The reality is that every moment of every day and night, every struggle, every grief and anxiety is a circumstance in which the light of God is present and visible to those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Here’s a challenge for this second week of Easter: look for the light of God’s presence in every anxious moment, in every difficult person, in each routine.
I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The guarantee is not from me but from God who is constantly tapping on your shoulder offering you moments of light, and life-giving insight.