According to the online Wikipedia Encyclopedia,
That seems pretty straightforward and it is. It appears, however,that celebrating such a significant event in both Christian and Catholic history on a specific date does not conform to the demands of Catholic ritual observation.
In the year 2005, March 25th happened to fall during Holy Week; specifically on Good Friday. As explained above, this necessitated re-scheduling the Feast of the Annunciation. According to the Roman Catholic Calendar 2005, Catholics commemorated this feast, which theoretically also marks the date of Jesus' earthly conception, on April 4.
Some time ago, I participated in a spirited discussion concerning the apparent relative importance of Jesus and Mary in the Catholic Church. For the purposes of this discussion, relative importance would be measured by the number of feasts celebrated in honor of each. Within this context, another issue developed concerning the Feast of the Annunciation, a Catholic holy day of obligation. One group argued that it was a Marian feast while another held that it was a feast of Christ. Both sides were able to point to online, unofficial Catholic references in support of their opposing positions.
In an attempt to pour oil on the waters, I said that I would write to the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for their official position on the issue. I mentioned that, in the past, Monsignor De Noia, the Executive Director, had been helpful to me in other matters. I received a reply from the new Executive Director, Monsignor John Strynowski, who appeared to be every bit as gracious and helpful as was his predecessor.
Before posting the information the Monsignor provided, I first want to post something from an apostolic exhortation written by Pope Paul VI:
In this Vatican document, which does not include those necessary statements required in order for it to be considered an 'infallible' ex cathedra teaching on a matter of faith or morals, the Pope confirms that the Catholic Church has and still does consider the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary to be a “joint one of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin.” Therefore, on the basis of this document at least, both parties in contention on the matter appear to have been correct, or at least partially correct.
It appears to me that, depending upon their doctrinal emphasis, some parties view the feast primarily as marking the Annunciation of Mary, while others apparently look upon it principally as honoring the Annunciation of Christ. While advocates of both positions are correct, in light of the Vatican position quoted above, I believe the strong conflicting positions defended by participants in that discussion concerning this Catholic feast to be symptomatic of the confusion over doctrinal issues that appears to be widespread among Catholic religious and laity. Certainly, Catholic polemists are not the only people who at times are confounded by the general ambiguity and internal conflict that marks Catholic doctrine.
It is not unheard of for champions of the Roman Catholic faith to decry confusion among non-Catholics. They claim that this is caused by our lack of a magisterium to interpret Scripture for us. Admittedly, there are some strange professing Christians teaching some strange doctrines. However, it should be borne in mind that not all these who claim to be Christians merit the label; nor are they being led by the Holy Spirit, despite claims to the contrary. Even qualified, Spirit-led non-Catholics who hold dear the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith differ among ourselves in the peripheral things of our worship and practice. Some who hold to the Catholic faith similarly see nothing contrary to Catholic dogma and doctrine in variations in the peripheral things of Catholic worship and practice. I find it interesting that these Catholic apologists, who are capable of generating quite a row over what they view as inconsistencies in non-Catholic doctrine and practice, see nothing wrong when similar variations occur within their own religious system. Is this a symptom of the blindness that can be generated by excessive pridefulness? Or is it simply hypocrisy?
A paper dealing with Marian feasts is available from the EWTN library. In this paper, the writer identifies, as does Marialis cultus, the Feast of the Anunciation as one of the most important Marian feasts.
Notice that, unlike the Vatican document, this paper fails to mention that the Catholic Church considers this to be a joint feast in honor of both Christ and Mary. What the writer committed to paper was in no way an error, at least of commission. However, I suggest that the 'oversight' may have been due to the paper's focus on Marian feasts, or it could reflect the writer's own Marian theology that, perhaps, may have blinded him to the possibility that the feast also honors Christ.
Nothing else wrong with the paper--from the Catholic point of view, that is.
It would be well, now, to look at the official position of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, as expressed in the letter graciously sent to me by Monsignor Strynkowski:
From this letter, which I am confident states the official understanding of the senior authority of the Catholic Church in America, the Feast of the Annunciation is stated to be a feast of the Lord. No mention of it's being a joint Marian feast. Again, I do not consider this position to be an error so much as a reflection of the theological bias of NCCB, at least in so far as the senior officials of two important Secretariats are concerned.
I do not for a moment doubt that the bishops and their support staff conform completely to liturgical guidelines when celebrating Mass on March 25th. My point in this paper is not to discredit the NCCB or the Vatican or EWTN for their differing positions concerning an important feast of the Catholic Church. I do not for a moment doubt that all of the policy-makers within all three of these organizations who had anything to do with formulating the positions published by the agencies they represent are doctrinally correct within the contest of Roman Catholicism.
The point I would like to make is that it is not difficult to understand why so many of those who would defend their Catholic faith on the Internet and in the 'outside world' manifest such widely differing understandings of even core dogma and doctrine of their faith. It is no wonder that they misunderstand evangelical doctrine, practice and theology since they seem confused concerning their own religion's teachings. And this is one of the factors that can make witnessing, debating or just conversing with Catholic apologists so darned frustrating. Their arguments can be obscure at times, and this surely is due, at least in part, to the often conflicting and always confusing output from their wonderful, and sometimes, at least, allegedly infallible Magisterium.
That's all I have to say on this matter.
BTW, did you notice that Monsignor Strynkowski used the term “Roman Catholic Church” that is so offensive to some converts to Catholicism? And that is another contributing factor to the difficulty of communication between Catholics and evangelicals: disagreement over the meaning and use of terms.
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