Today, Sunday, March 25, is the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the beginning of the Fifth Week of Lent, the last proper week of Lent. Next Sunday, Holy Week begins: it will be Palm Sunday. A week of mourning and rejoicing, the holiest week of the Christian year leading up to the holiest day of the Christian year: Easter Sunday. This year, it falls on April 8.
Indeed, some remark that Easter – the Resurrection – is not a Sunday at all but the eighth day of the week, an eternal Sunday or Feast of the Lord. Easter does not commemorate or celebrate just the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ but all that Christ has done, all of His victories and gifts, and with this also celebrates the redemption of God’s children and the divine establishment of His Body among us humans.
But March 25 is significant for another reason: it is the solemnity of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Yes, just as we are preparing to celebrate the Lord’s triumph, we have reached the announcement to Mary of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ through her. We are nine months away from the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas.
But this year, March 25 offers a complication: it is both the Feast of the Lord (by virtue of being Sunday) and the Feast of the Annunciation (by virtue of being March 25). Both cannot be celebrated as both are high-ranking feasts, and celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation, unlike most feasts commemorating saints, is mandatory and not optional. This is solved by transferring the Feast of the Annunciation to the next day, Monday, March 26. This shows a few things: that Sunday outranks most feasts, and that mandatory feasts can be moved a day or so to accomodate an outranking feast.
I still find it interesting how in the midst of one of the Christian liturgical calendar’s four main seasons (the four being Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter) we are forced to look ahead to an upcoming season: the year goes round and round. Our Lord has not yet died and risen (as far as commemorating His deeds through the liturgical calendar is concerned) and we are forced to recall His birth, which season we just came out of. (Well, almost just came out of: there was a period of Ordinary Time between the seasons of Christmas and Lent.)
And now I go to bed: I have to wake up early if I want to make it to the special 5 a.m. service for the Feast of the Annunciation, the Missa Aurea or Golden Mass, a Tridentine High Mass. (Tridentine: pre-Vatican II version; High Mass: a mass that is sung, usually including a choir, rather than just chanted; a chanted but not sung mass is a Low Mass; other differences exist as well.)