The Annunciation of the Lord: And Became Water?

Annunciation at the Spring, Homilies of James Kokkinobaphos (Paris, BnF, MS gr. 1208, fol. 159v), first half of the 12th century

March 22 is World Water Day, a relatively new day in the global calendar. Three days later, on March 25th, the Church celebrates an ancient feast, the Annunciation of the Lord, and with it, the Incarnation. Throughout the centuries, the faithful from all walks of life have made meaning of this feast, whose origins date back beyond the Council of Ephesus in 431. Popular religious practices thrived around “Lady Day.” For example, farmers would place an image of the Annunciation in the seed grain in order to ensure a bountiful harvest. Those predicting the weather also found this feast telling (“When Gabriel does the message bring, return the swallows, comes the spring.”). And the meaning-making never stops, as we continue on our journey through time. Since in our own time, the feast of the Annunciation comes soon after World Water Day, and given that the Incarnation happened in the waters of Mary’s womb, water is on my mind. It is also in my body, and in my bones. 60% of an adult body, after all, is water. A newborn carries even more water, about 78%. And even our bones are watery, almost 31%. According to the USGS, our lungs are about 83% water; while our skin contains 64% water. In a very real sense, then, the Incarnation might be said to be about God embracing and becoming H2O. In a lovely coincidence, the account of the second-century Protoevangelium of James, and following it, some Byzantine depictions, put Mary at a well at the moment of the Annunciation. But even more than God becoming human and 78% H2O as a newborn, the Incarnation is also about God becoming cosmic dust, and about God becoming genetic kin to all that is, since humans share with all that exists on planet earth a common genetic ancestry.

For me at least, these contemporary insights are wonderous. They also put in perspective a persistent emphasis in some ecclesial circles on the importance of the maleness of Christ’s body. I do not deny that Jesus in all likelihood had XY-chromosomes (rather than XX, or one of the genetic variants, such as XO or XXY), but His body will also have been almost 80% water as a newborn, and 60% water as an adult. More importantly, as a human being, he will have been genetic kin to all that existed on planet earth prior to His Incarnation, and yes, He will have carried some stardust within Him, too.

And on that cheerful note: A Blessed Solemnity of God’s deep Incarnation, of God becoming one of us, all of us, and kin to everything that is.

3 comments

  1. Jesus shared not only the common stardust DNA of Miriam’s womb with all of the Cosmos (hence the Cosmic Christ), but also common human hormones with all of humanity. Male AND female they were created, NOT or. The male has female hormones and the female has male hormones.

    And the CDF said what? Faith AND reason. Itsa Catholic thing.

    Water is Life; mni waconi.

  2. The date of 25 March is interesting also in that, in early Christian tradition, this is also the date of the death of Jesus.

    Tertullian, (c. 155 – c. 240 AD) writes (An Answer to the Jews, VIII:17) that the date of Jesus’ death, is the eighth day before the calends of April (which is 25 March) AD 29, which seems to indicate that the date is an already well established tradition:
    “And the suffering of this extermination was perfected within the times of the lxx hebdomads, under Tiberius Cæsar, in the consulate of Rubellius Geminus and Rufius Geminus, in the month of March, at the times of the passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April, on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses.”
    The calends of April is the first day of April. Counting from 25 March to 1 April, both inclusive, is eight days.

    St Augustine (354 – 430): De Trinitate IV, 5(9)
    “… the perfection itself of the body of the Lord is found to have been brought in so many days to the birth, as the authority of the church maintains upon the tradition of the elders. For He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, [John xix. 41, 42] neither before nor since. But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”

    Roman Martyrology on 25 March lists the Annunciation, but also the death of the Good Thief, sometimes known as Dismas:
    THE Annunciation of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God…
    “At Jerusalem, the commemoration of the good Thief [no name given], who confessed Christ on the cross, and deserved to hear from Him these words: This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”

  3. Apropos of nothing, there is, of course, that modern chemical heresy of D2H, intended as an analogue of H2O. Two parts Divine and one part Human. Cute, but wrong on both counts. And almost as bad as that laminin nonsense. Some of us seem to have a desire to prove God or prove Christ by improving on scripture and improvising on reality, or meaning anyway. The mystery of the Trinity written into the structure of the water molecule. The mystery of the cross found in the structure of a molecule that holds human beings together. Microscopic Easter Eggs provided by God for our edification and amusement.

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