The solemn feast of the Annunciation in Nazareth

The solemn feast of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Mary’s “Yes,” an example of her unlimited trust in God

Generally celebrated on 25th March, this year the solemnity of the Annunciation has been moved to 7th and 8th April. The community of Franciscan friars gathered together with the local community in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the place and the memory of the meeting between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary (Luke 1, 26.38) and the Incarnation of the Word are enshrined.

Here the Word became flesh

The Judaic-Christian accounts, the narrations in the gospels, the archaeological excavations and tradition all meet here, in this Arab-Israeli village, where the  Basilica of the Custody of the Holy Land  stands, with the grotto of the Annunciation, visible evidence of Mary’s “Yes,” which allowed the Word to be incarnated

The inscription Verbum caro factum est” (the Word became flesh) is carved into the façade of the upper church and on the altar in the grotto, the heart of the Shrine.

The present-day Basilica built in the years 1960-69 and consecrated on 25th March 1969 ‒ is made up of two churches on top of one another: the upper church and the lower one. The first ne, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, houses the large mosaic representing the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" in the apse and paintings and frescoes show the different representations of the Virgin Mary in various countries in the world. The lower church, on the other hand, houses the   grotto of the Annunciation where, according to tradition, the Holy Family lived for a long time until the years when Jesus moved away from them to begin his work of evangelization. The external complex of the Basilica is surrounded by a long portico, which includes a series of panels showing national representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The entrance and the Eucharistic celebration

The Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, H.E. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, invited by the Franciscans to preside over the celebrations of the solemnity, was initially welcomed to the premises of the St Anthony parish premises by the scouts and the communities of the local Christian churches, by Fra Ibrahim Sabbagh, parish priest of Nazareth and his councillors

The long procession then moved off towards the Basilica, where the Patriarch, his Vicar Mons. Rafic Nahra, Mons.  Adolfo Tito Yllana,  Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and a delegation from the Latin Patriarchate including several seminarians and some priests, were welcomed by a delegation of Franciscans, led by Fra Wojciech Bołoz, Guardian and Rector of the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Shrine of the Holy Family in Nazareth

After the aspersion and the incensation, the delegation entered the Basilica where Fra Ibrahim welcomed the Patriarch on behalf of the local faithful. 

Trust: one of the main victims of this war

During the Solemn Mass, anticipated to Sunday so that the local faithful could attend more easily, the Patriarch recalled how this year the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on the liturgical day of the Octave of Easter: “Two main events in the history of salvation, the incarnation and the resurrection come together on the same day!” Cardinal Pizzaballa emphasized. 

With Easter,” he continued, “Jesus will complete the work begun with Mary’s “Yes”: “yes” to the faith and to trust even in what seems humanly impossible, a “yes” to listening, despite the turmoil, a “yes” to life. These are important signs of life, especially in this period when trust is one of the main victims of this war. Mary teaches us to say “yes” with unlimited trust in what will come, because she trusts God.”

The procession “Memory of the Incarnation of the Word of God”

Before the conclusion, the liturgy of this solemnity included the final procession in the Upper Basilica, “Memory of the Incarnation of the Word of God” (“Memoria Verbi Dei Incarnationis”) with the reading of three passages from the Gospels (John 1, 1-8; John 1, 9-18; Matthew 1, 18-25) linked to the mystery of the incarnation, followed by the prayer of the Angelus. Lastly, the Patriarch  gave the apostolic blessing with the plenary indulgence granted by Pope Francis on the occasion of the feast-day.

“Without the Incarnation, there is no Resurrection,”  Fra Wojciech remarked at the end of the celebration. “The two celebrations are united in the Mystery of Christ: the story of salvation, which ends in the empty tomb, begins here. And then let’s remember the words of Jesus risen who tells the apostles “Return to Galilee! You will find me there!”: this means returning to the origins,  beginning again from the start and it also means returning here, and from here going back over the story of salvation, to understand it better and better.”


The next morning, His Beatitude Pizzaballa presided over the Eucharistic celebration of the solemnity. There was great participation in the Basilica, with the local Christians, religious and pilgrims filling the Upper Basilica of the Annunciation, to the great joy of the Patriarch.

Silvia Giuliano