Eleanor Parker for the Annuncation–‘Our Lady’s Lay’

Today is the feast of the Annunciation, or ‘Lady Day in Lent’, as it was known in the Middle Ages. As I explored last year, the medieval church considered 25 March to be the single most important date in history: it was both the beginning and the end of Christ’s life on earth, the date of his conception at the Annunciation and his death on Good Friday. To underline the harmony and purpose which, in the eyes of medieval Christians, shaped the divinely-written narrative of the history of the world, 25 March was also said to be the date of other significant events: the eighth day of Creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, the sacrifice of Isaac, and other days linked with or prefiguring the story of the world’s fall and redemption. The date occurs at a conjunction of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: all these 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. The resonances of 25 March reached even unto Middle Earth, as Tolkien aligned the downfall of the Ring to this most auspicious of dates.

‘Lady Day in Lent’ is the springtime feast of the Virgin Mary, one of several ‘lady days’ which marked the seasons of the medieval year. There is a vast amount of medieval poetry and art on the theme of the Annunciation, more than you could read or look at in a lifetime, and much of it is exquisite: I’ve posted some of my own favourites under this tag. Over and over again, through many centuries, thousands of poets and artists have tried to imagine this scene, where heaven and earth meet and the fate of the universe hangs upon a young woman’s word.

For today, here’s a lovely little poem about the Annunciation by William Herebert, friar and poet, writing in the early 14th century.

Read it all.


Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology