The Christmas Connection

In a pastoral letter for March 1999, Bishop Sylvester Ryan of the Diocese of Monterey, Calif. called the attention of his parishes to the special significance of this year's feast of the Annunciation.:

The impressive and attractive Basilica of the Annunciation sits in the middle of the City of Nazareth in the Holy Land [see photo, this page]. It is a two-tiered church, with a lower and an upper floor. Mass can be celebrated simultaneously in both places. The lower floor opens into a grotto, the location of the Annunciation event. The entire church exudes a palpable sense of the holy. When I visited the Basilica I found myself drawn immediately into a deep mood of prayer and adoration. The Basilica serves as a touching reminder of the Annunciation's singular place in the story of our redemption.

Within the church's liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th nine months before the feast of Christmas. This year the Feast of the Annunciation has an additional Christmas connection. The Jubilee Year 2000 officially begins on the Feast of Christmas. In an eloquent way, therefore, this year's Feast of the Annunciation anticipates the Jubilee Year.

For this reason, I want to invite all of our parishes to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation in a special manner. Sister Barbara Long, O.P., has sent an Annunciation Vespers service to each of the parishes. Along with the celebration of the Eucharist, this will be a prayerful and reverent way to remember the gift of the Blessed Mother in our lives by joining together as a Diocese in the church's Vesper prayer. …

[A]n evening service of Vespers on the Feast of the Annunciation by all the parishes of the Diocese will provide a distinctive homage to Our Blessed Mother as well as our opening celebration of the Jubilee year.