Saturday, March 25, 2017

Good Friday on March 25

One thing I did not explain in my post for March 25 in the National Catholic Register blog roll was the tradition that the Annunciation of Our Lord and Good Friday occurred on the same date, March 25. A Clerk of Oxford explained the tradition last year:

This year Good Friday falls on Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation. This is a rare occurrence and a special one, because it means that for once the day falls on its 'true' date: in patristic and medieval tradition, March 25 was considered to be the historical date of the Crucifixion. It happens only a handful of times in a century, and won't occur again until 2157.

These days the church deals with such occasions by transferring the feast of the Annunciation to another day, but traditionally the conjunction of the two dates was considered to be both deliberate and profoundly meaningful. The date of the feast of the Annunciation was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion, as deduced from the Gospels, in order to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. March 25 was both the first and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth. The idea goes back at least to the third century, and Augustine explained it in this way:
He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.
This day was not only a conjunction of man-made calendars but also a meeting-place of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. . . . 

As John Donne wrote when Good Friday did occur on March 25 in 1608, it brings the great theological mysteries of the Incarnation and the Passion together:

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.

That's why the feast of St. Dismas is on March 25; his feast is on the date he entered into eternal life in Heaven, the traditional date of the Crucifixion. 

Image Credit: Saint John the Baptist, Annunciation, Crucifixion, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Francesc Comes, circa 1400, provenance unknown.

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