Lady Day, 25th March 2021
Today we remember it is nine months exactly to Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Today is the day when we recall the Angel Gabriel coming and visiting Mary and telling her she would become pregnant with God's own Son and that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus.
Luke 1:26-38 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Over the centuries this has been an event most wondered about and then every attempt to describe the scene. How would Mary have looked where was she at the time and was she alone? Would she have believed it initially or puzzled over things? Would she have rushed to tell her Mum or Joseph or a close friend? How would she have kept that information safe? And how about Gabriel, would he have appeared as we think of an angel or in human form, how would he have told the news and what might he have done to support Mary in that moment?
Charles Causley's words it in his well known poem, The Ballad of the Bread Man -
Ballad of the Breadman (A few verses from) Charles Causley
Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread. An angel flew in the window ‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.
‘God in his big gold heaven Sitting in his big blue chair, Wanted a mother for his little son. Suddenly saw you there.’ Mary shook and trembled, ‘It isn’t true what you say.’ ‘Don’t say that,’ said the angel. ‘The baby’s on its way.’ Joseph was in the workshop Planing a piece of wood. ‘The old man’s past it,’ the neighbours said. ‘That girls been up to no good.’ ‘And who was that elegant fellow,’ They said. ‘in the shiny gear?’ The things they said about Gabriel Were hardly fit to hear. Mary never answered, Mary never replied. She kept the information, Like the baby, safe inside.
In 1155, 25 March was celebrated as the start of the New Year in England and was known to the Tudors, as a holiday called, “Lady Day.” Lady Day was exactly nine months before Christmas on 25 December, the birthday of Christ. So how did Lady Day come to mark the beginning of the legal year?
Well, Lady Day was the first of four quarterly dates in the English calendar. On these quarterly dates, school terms would begin and servants would start work. Some schools and colleges schools, often ancient foundations or in the private sector, still observe start dates on quarter days, such as Michaelmas term, beginning on 29 September - so in order, the calendar would flow with the quarter days are Lady Day on 25 March, Midsummer Day on 24 June, Michaelmas Day on 29 September, and Christmas Day on 25 December.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
This prayer known as The Angelus is frequently recited at noon day services, masses etc. It was initially an evening prayer and heralded by the Angelus bell reminded people to stop and pray to focus upon how Christ came into our world It includes three Hail Marys and simply exists to remind us of the love of God in Christ for us, when we may well be otherwise focus with our daily routines.
It is much loved in the Roman Catholic, Anglican churches, but increasing in other denominations as a call to stop and pray. The Angelus bell still tolls to call us to prayer. I find it rather beautiful too.