Catholic Q&A: The Annunciation of the Lord

Catholic Q&A: The Annunciation of the Lord

By Fr. Rick Poblocki

What is the Annunciation?

The “Annunciation” refers to “The visit of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary to inform her that she was to be the Mother of the Savior.  After giving her consent to God’s word, Mary became the Mother of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 484, 494, Glossary, p. 866)

How do we know about the Annunciation?

The announcement of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary is related in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:26-38).  The Gospel of Matthew contains another account of an Annunciation to St. Joseph.  In Matthew’s account, Joseph is informed of Mary’s virginal and miraculous conception of the Messiah (Matthew 1:18-25).

What type of Feast is the Annunciation?

The Annunciation of the Lord is a Solemnity, which is a Feast of the highest rank in the Catholic Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that:

“In the liturgical year the various aspects of the Paschal Mystery unfold.  This is also the case with the cycle of the feasts surrounding the mystery of the Incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany).  They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal Mystery” (CCC, 1171).

  • Liturgical Year: The cycle of Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials in honor of the Lord, Our Lady, the Angels and Saints that occur throughout the year.
  • Paschal Mystery: A term that refers to the saving work of Christ (i.e. His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension).
  • Cycle of Feasts: Certain celebrations connected to one another because they are related to a particular aspect of Christ’s saving work. The Christmas Cycle is related to His Birth, and the Easter Cycle is related to His Death and Rising.
  • Mystery: Not a “puzzle” to be solved, but rather, a sacred Truth or Truths revealed to us by God Himself.  Left to itself, without God’s help, no human mind could ever imagine or discover these truths without the help and revelation of God.
  • Incarnation: A word with Greek and Latin roots that means “to take Flesh.”  Incarnation refers to when the Son of God became Man – by assuming (adding) a human body and soul to His Being as God.
  • “Commemorate and communicate”: This phrase means that as Catholic Christians observe and celebrate these particular Feasts, the day and Jesus’ saving work is recalled, or commemorated.  As the worshipper observes and celebrates these types of days, God draws them closer to Himself, sharing ever more deeply His life with them.  Because God shares, or communicates, His life with us through these feasts, He is said to communicate or share salvation with us!  The “LIFE” God shares with us is called Sanctifying Grace.

When is the Solemnity of the Annunciation celebrated?

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25, which is nine months prior to the Feast of Our Lord’s Holy Birth – Christmas.

How did the Blessed Virgin Mary conceive the Lord Jesus?

The Blessed Virgin Mary conceived the Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.  St. Gabriel told Our Lady: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35; CCC, 484-485).

How did the “overshadowing” by the Holy Spirit cause Mary to become the Mother of the Lord Jesus?

The power of the Holy Spirit caused Our Lady to conceive God the Son – the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity – with a human nature derived from her own (CCC, 484-485).  Mary’s conception of the Lord Jesus, without the seed of a human male is called the Virginal Conception of Jesus.

Then, what is the Immaculate Conception?

The Immaculate Conception is different from the Virginal Conception, in that the Virginal Conception is concerned with how Jesus was conceived.  The Immaculate Conception  means that when Our Lady was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, Mary was preserved from the stain of Adam’s sin.  The Immaculate Conception is unique privilege that no other human had or has had since.  It prevents the Mother of God from being a slave to the Devil and sin.

Did the Lord Jesus always possess the Holy Spirit – even from the very first moment of His conception?

Yes.  As the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God already possessed the Holy Spirit.  The Lord Jesus possessed the Holy Spirit in his human nature from the very first moment of His conception in the virginal womb of Mary, His Mother.  Jesus’ possession of the Holy Spirit is known as His “being anointed with the Holy Spirit.”

How did Jesus’ anointing with the Holy Spirit show up in His life?

Jesus’ anointing with the Holy Spirit began to show itself gradually in His life.  It showed up in His encounter with the shepherds at His birth, in His dealings with His Apostles and disciples, and throughout His whole life (CCC, 486).

What name is given to Mary’s Virginity before Jesus’ birth, during delivery, and forever after His birth?

The Virginity of Mary before Jesus’ conception, during delivery, and forever after is known as the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we often call Our Lady Semper Virgo (Sem-per Veer-go), or “Ever Virgin.”  The Eastern Rites of the Church and Orthodox call her Aeiparthenos (Aye-par-then-noss), the “Ever Virgin” (CCC, 499; cf. note 156).

Was the Virgin Mary predestined to be the Mother of God?

Yes.  From all eternity God chose the Holy Virgin Mary to be the Mother of His Divine Son (CCC, 488).

Are we given any indication of the Blessed Virgin ‘s vocation in the Old Testament?

As the Church read the Old Testament, it saw in many of its humble and holy women God preparing the world for Mary’s mission and vocation as the humble “Handmaid of the Lord,” who would become Mother of the Son of God (CCC, 489).

How did God prepare the Virgin Mary to become the Mother of Jesus Christ?

God prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by making her “Full of Grace” (Luke 1:26).  The expression – in Greek, kecharitomene (kay-care-rit-toe-men-nay) – indicates that God has already “graced” Mary – even prior to the moment of the Annunciation – making her a vessel who “has already been” and “is now” filled with Divine Life! This idea will later be formulated in the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  Gabriel’s greeting is certainly pointing in this direction.  The title Full of Grace is the only instance in the entire Bible where an angel addresses someone by a title instead of their personal name!

I noticed that different translations of the Bible will sometimes replace the expression “Hail, Full of Grace” with phrases like “Hail, favored One” or “Rejoice, O Highly Favored daughter.”  Are these legitimate translations?

The expression “Hail, Full of Grace” is rooted in the Catholic tradition and can be traced back to St. Jerome’s translation of this passage from Greek into Latin.  In his translation, the Greek phrase Chaire (kye-ray) kecharitomene (kay-care-rit-toe-men-nay) becomes Ave (Ah-vay) gratia (grot-see-ya) plena (play-nah), which means “Hail, Full of Grace!”  While St. Jerome’s genius as a translator was incomparable, it is always difficult in translating any text to capture the power and depth of the original Greek expression found in the Gospel text.  Other translations that feature expressions like “favored one” or “Highly Favored” are possible, but inadequate.  These phrases fail to convey the unparalleled vocation Mary has at this key point in God’s saving plan.  The best translation must underline Mary’s exalted position as the “grace-filled” Mother of God.  The translation,  in order to be true to the Greek text must emphasize that God endowed Our Lady with an abundance of grace to prepare her for her vocation of Divine Motherhood and make her a peerless model of Christian holiness and sanctity (CCC, 490-493,722).

Did the Church grow in its awareness of Mary’s “Fullness of Grace”?

Absolutely! Over the years, the Church’s increasing awareness of Our Lady’s “Fullness of Grace” led Pope Pius IX in 1854 to define in Ineffabilis Deus that the Blessed Virgin Mary “from the first moment of her Conception

[was] preserved immune from all Original Sin” (CCC, 491).

Did Our Lady ever sin?

No, the Blessed Virgin Mary never sinned; she was sinless.  The Fathers of the Church referred to Our Lady as “All-holy” in their writings and homilies.

How did the Blessed Virgin respond to the Annunciation?

The Blessed Virgin responded with the obedience of Faith.  The great St. Irenaeus of Lyon wrote: “Through her obedience, she became the cause of salvation both for herself and the whole human race” (Adversus Haereses/Against the Heresies, 3, 22, 4).

Given what St. Irenaeus says, doesn’t it seem that Mary didn’t need a Savior?

Absolutely not!  Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her freedom from Original Sin, and her sinlessness throughout her life was precisely because God is her Savior (Luke 1:47)!  He is her Savior in the most perfect way possible: God sanctified Mary and preserved her from Original Sin from the first moment of her existence – that is, her Conception; He preserved her from (committing) sin her entire life. God preserved her even from the inclination to sin that all of the rest of us experience!  Therefore, as Mary declares in Luke 1:46-55, in the hymn of praise known as the Magnificat (Mag-niff-fee-kot, Latin for “magnifies” or “praise”) – God is truly her Savior (Luke 1:47).  Mary is not somehow free of the need to be “saved” by God – her fullness of grace is due solely to Him!

What name is given to the consent Our Lady gave at the Annunciation?

The name given to Our Lady’s consent given at the time of the Annunciation is called her fiat (fee-yot), which in the Latin translation of the Bible means “Let it be [done to me].”

Who is the Archangel Gabriel?

The Archangel Gabriel is the holy Angel who announced to Mary the birth of Jesus Christ.  Both Jewish and Christian tradition identify him as one of the seven Angels who minister in the Presence of God (Tobit 12:15, Revelation 8:2).  In Hebrew his name means “God is Mighty.” Along with the Archangels St. Michael and St. Raphael, St. Gabriel is honored on September 29.  His Feast Day is March 24 on the old calendar.

How do we honor the Annunciation in our prayers and devotions as Catholics?

We honor the Annunciation by praying at our rising, at noon, and at 6pm a prayer called the Angelus – a name derived from the first words of this prayer in Latin.  The Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus from Easter until Pentecost.

What important Truths and themes appear in the Mass and prayer texts used to celebrate the Annunciation?

Again, the Catholic tradition contains a rich variety of prayers and texts that adore, praise, and thank God for his saving action through the Annunciation.  Many texts also petition God, in order to apply to believers today, the graces of His ancient and beautiful display of His power in order to save us:


The Collect was formerly called the Opening Prayer.  It is called the Collect because it gathers, or “collects”, all the intentions and petitions of those at the Eucharistic celebration.

  • God wills that the Word (a Name for God the Son) would “take on” or assume an actual human nature in the womb of the Holy Virgin.
  • The Church appears in this prayer in the use of the word we.
  • As the Church confesses Christ the Redeemer to be truly God and truly Man by the Incarnation, it beseeches God to make all members of the Church “partakers even in His divine nature” – that is, the Church is asking God to allow its members to share in His life as God.  God brings about a sharing in His life through the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.


  • This prayer begins with the Church asking God to accept the offerings made at the Eucharist as it is celebrated on this Solemnity.
  • The Church recognizes that its beginnings – as the Church – go back to when God’s “Only Begotten Son” added a human nature to His Being as God in the moment of the Incarnation.
  • The Church petitions God to accept its (Eucharistic) offering, because this offering will allow the Church to “rejoice” in the salvation effected by Christ.


  • In this prayer, the Church asks God that “the mysteries of the true Faith may be confirmed.”
  • These “mysteries of the true Faith” are spelled out in the prayer:
    • “that He…was conceived of the Virgin Mary”
    • that Christ is “true God and true Man”
    • Christ rose from the dead in order to save us
  • The prayer concludes with the Church asking God that all its members may one day, “through the saving power of his Resurrection”, attain eternal joy, and share in the everlasting happiness of Heaven.


  • This Preface is entitled The Mystery of the Incarnation.
  • The Preface begins with mentioning that Mary heard the Angels’s message with faith.
  • The Preface clearly states that “Christ was to be born among men and for men’s sake” by the “overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • The purpose of the Incarnation was to save all men and women in the world – so, the Preface clearly links the Incarnation to the Pascal Mystery.
  • Returning to Our Lady’s divine Maternity, the Preface notes that like every other mother, Our Lady is filled with love because, through Christ, all of God’s “promises to the children of Israel might come about.”
  • This is not limited to Israel alone; all nations will share in this salvation – a fulfillment going beyond what anyone could have dreamed or imagined.
  • It is this faith of Our Lady that is the basis for Our Lady’s unique and unimaginable love.


  • Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10: This passage provides a foreshadowing of the Incarnation.  While the Hebrew text uses a word meaning “young girl”, the Greek translation of the Bible uses the word parathenos, “Virgin”.  The early Church saw in this text a foretelling that Christ would be born of a Virgin.
  • Psalm 40:7-8, 8-9, 10, 11: Over many centuries, Psalm 40 has become associated with the Incarnation of God the Son.  This is because words of this Psalm are read in a “fuller sense” (with the eyes of Faith) that sees in the words of the Psalm the attitudes or disposition of God the Son as He assumes a human body and soul to bring about our reinstatement with God.
  • Hebrew 10:4-10: Used as a Second Reading for this Solemnity, this passage emphasizes Christ’s willful and deliberate choice to become Man so we can share in His life.
  • Luke 1:26-38: This is the Annunciation story that highlights Mary’s Faith and loving acceptance of God’s Will – thus bringing about the Incarnation of the Son of God.  The Preface of the mass embodies what is narrated in this Gospel passage.







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