This year, the feast of Annunciation fell on the Great Saturday. Last time such a beautiful coincidence happened in 2007. What are the liturgical peculiarities of this day and how can we celebrate the feast?
After the rite of Burial of the Shroud (usually on Great Friday or at night on Great Saturday, an appealing glorification is sung: “With the voice of the archangel we cry to Thee, O Pure One: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee!”
There are two Gospel readings: Matthew, the end of chapter 27, in which it is told about the burial of Chris, and the traditional readings of the feasts of the Mother of God – about the meeting of Virgin Mary with Elisabeth, the mother of john the Forerunner.
Two canons are joined together: the well-known canon of Great Saturday written by St. Kassia, a wonderful church poetess, and no less famous canon of Annunciation, based on an imaginary dialogue between Archangel Gabriel and the Mother of God.
Next morning, at the liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the apostolic and Gospel readings of Annunciation and Great Saturday are united again. After the end of the Eucharistic canon, when “Axion Estin” is usually sung or “All of creation rejoices in you, O full of grace” (in case of the liturgy of Basil the Great), the choir sings one of the favorite chants devoted to the Mother of God – “Do not weep for Me, Mother”. It inspired many poets and artists – from Michelangelo and his heart-rending “Pieta” to Anna Ahmatova and her painful poem “Requiem”.
However, if your parish church is called in honor of the Annunciation, then most likely you will hear another chant: “Let no profane hand touch the living Ark of God, but let the lips of the faithful, singing without ceasing the words of the Angel to the Theotokos, cry aloud in great joy: Hail, thou who are full of grace: the Lord is with thee.”
On Great Saturday, churches are especially beautiful. In the center on the church there is a Shroud decorated with flowers – the image of Jesus Christ in the tomb.
This year there will be even more beauty – near the Shroud there will be an analogion with the icon of the Annunciation of the Mother of God. The Good News about the coming of the Savior, and the tremulous waiting for the good news about His Resurrection.
At the same time, priests will be vested in traditional colors of Great Saturday. During the Burial and the Liturgy before the chant “Arise, O God, judge the earth” (before the apostolic readings), the vestments are black; after that – white vestments. There will be no traditional blue vestments of the Annunciation.
What is permitted to eat and how to celebrate the feast
There is the bad news for the lovers of traditional dished made of fish – there will be no fast easing because of Great Saturday. The good news is that it is permitted to drink some wine at the modest supper. By the way, wine is permitted on every Saturday and Sunday of Great Lent. Not for causing excessive drinking, but because wine in small portions strengthens us indeed.
There is a good piece of advice. On the occasion of the feast, prepare something like mulled wine. Something less time-consuming and not intoxicating. Dilute any wine you like with hot but not boiling water, add there a spoon of cinnamon, a branch of thyme or mint, a piece of apple, a tangerine skin, add a spoon of honey if the wine is too dry – and enjoy its pleasant flavor and taste. Forget about your household worries. You did not have time for cleaning? Not a big deal. The main thing is to “clean’ your heart, not your house. You did not have time for baking a kulich? If you want one very much you can just buy it.
Remember an old proverb, “On the day of the Annunciation, a bird won’t make its nest, a girl won’t braid her hair”. Focus on living through this main Saturday of the year: “This is the most blessed Sabbath, On which Christ has fallen asleep to rise on the third day!”