Annunciation 1999 Means Nine Months Until Jubilee

WASHINGTON—The Church is in the final year of preparation for the great celebration of the Jubilee of Christ's birth which begins this year on Christmas Eve.

Kelly Bowring, administrative assistant of the national bishops’ office for the Jubilee said that the feast is a special part of the preparations this year.

He told the Register that March 25 begins a “nine month countdown to the celebration of the Birth of Christ and of the Great Jubilee.” He describes it as “a novena of preparation for the Jubilee, a time of getting things in order, as a mother would do when she is expecting a birth.”

The Liturgical Year

The Jubilee of the Annunciation will be celebrated next year — nine months before Christmas 2000. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray and Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe explained in a June statement from the Vatican's Jubilee office that the Jubilee and the liturgical year 2000 “cannot be separated, but must vivify that unique period of time in which the chronological date, inherent in the number 2000, and the mystical date, that of the sacramental celebration of the mystery of Christ, are harmoniously welded together.”

Because of the significance of the liturgical year, they wrote, several events from Christ's life will be celebrated in a special way in the year 2000, regardless of when they fell in history. The article cited Easter, the Epiphany, and the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

The U.S. bishops are stressing the preparatory year, 1999, with its emphasis on God the Father, the virtue of charity, and sacramental confession. But these are summed up nicely in the Annunciation, said Bowring.

After all, it was God the Father who invited his daughter Mary to be the mother of his son, and it is in deep charity that she responded. Bowring added that we can look to Mary, Refuge of Sinners, at this time “to focus on our conversion, on reconciliation with the Father.”

In the context of the year of the Father, Bowring said that the bishops’ committee on the Jubilee sees the time from March 25 to December 25 as “a period of immediate and joyful expectation, the final phase of our pilgrimage to the House of the Father.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mary's openness to God means that the next nine months from the Annunciation to the Jubilee of Christ's birth can be understood as uniquely a time of Our Lady of Guadalupe, believes Peter Sonski, director of communications of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The Annunciation is a novena of preparation, a time of getting things in order, as a mother would do when she is expecting a birth.

“To my knowledge, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only [widely known] image we have of a pregnant Mary,” said Sonski. “Besides that, the Pope has designated her the patroness of the New Evangelization. It's as if she is now ready to give birth to the new civilization of love that the Pope tells us to expect in the third millennium.”

Sonski says several parts of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe suggest a pregnant woman: the cinture just below her folded hands reflects an Aztec tradition showing that a woman was with child. Also, the four-petaled flower positioned over Mary's womb was another Aztec symbol that can be interpreted as an indication of the presence of the divine child in her womb.

Thus, the feast can draw American Catholics closer to the woman whom Pope John Paul II has put in care of the New Evangelization, he said.

In rededicating the Americas to Our Lady of Guadalupe in his Jan. postsynodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, Pope John Paul II said again that Mary “is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history … of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord. … Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion” (No. 10).

He added, “It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples, will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church, so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.”

A Way of Life

Santiaga Aventurado said she has personal experience of the Marian aspect of evangelization work. Now living in Burke, Va., Aventurado's vocation started in the Philippines where she entered the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation, an international organization of consecrated women numbering over 600 — called Annunciationists for short. She plans to celebrate the jubilee of the Annunciation in a special way this year.

“It was a very hard life in the Philippines, going into remote areas in the mountains. We did the work priests could not do because they could not get around to everyone.” She said she would catechize, give communion and pray for the dead.

Aventurado says the spirituality of the Annunciationists sustained her. Members of the institute are called “to continue the work of Mary here on earth by embracing whatever is the will of God — like Mary did at the Annunciation,” she told the Register.

As her guide she looks to the way that Mary gave witness: “She announces the Good News to people by her continuing yes to God the Father, embracing everything that is his will, including all the pain and frustration.”

Philosopher and theologian Dr. David Schindler stressed that the Marian spirituality typified by the Annunciation is not something of interest only to a few who have a particular call. He believes it goes to the heart of the difficulties of our entire culture at the close of the second millennium: “There's scarcely anything more important to recover today than the Marian dimension of Christian discipleship as pointed out by Pope John Paul. At the heart of it is, of course, the Annunciation.”

Schindler believes that “all the fundamental doctrines and devotions of the Church have to become ways of life. None of them are extraneous; none is simply propositional truth. In the deepest Catholic sense they imply an entire way of being.”

He said the Pope is trying to call mankind's attention to a different vision from the “knowledge is power” mindset. He cited the closing lines of the Pope's most recent encyclical, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason):

“Between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy there is a deep harmony. Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God's word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative.

“Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its inquiries rise to their highest expression. This was a truth which the holy monks of Christian antiquity understood well when they called Mary ‘the table at which faith sits in thought.’ In her they saw a lucid image of true philosophy, and they were convinced of the need to philosophari in Maria” (No. 108).

Schindler points out the Pope is saying that even philosophers have to have a Marian spirituality.

“To philosophize in Mary,” he said, is a challenge that only someone like Pope John Paul II could propose to the hard-bitten and skeptical philosophers of our day.

Gerry Rauch is an assistant editor at the Register.