The Church celebrates today the feast of the Annunciation (also known as Lady Day), meaning the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of the son of God. This date, of course, is not casual at all: March 25 comes nine full months before Christmas, which represents the birthday of Jesus. As the very event that made possible the Incarnation of Jesus, it goes without saying that the Annunciation has always been one of the main solemn days in Christianity: thanks to this, March 25 was used as the New Year's Day in many Christian countries up until the formal adoption of the Gregorian Calendar (for example 1564 in France and 1752 in England). In addition to this, the scene of the Annunciation is also described in the Quran.
The Annunciation is also a key theme in Christian (and especially Marian) art, figuring in the repertoire of almost all great masters during the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Leonardo, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Jan van Eyck, and Caravaggio are just some of the many artists who painted the scene. One of the main motifs of the Annunciation in art is the lily: the white flower, a symbol of purity, is often depicted in the hands of the Archangel or, alternatively, standing in a vase between Mary and Gabriel.
"Annunciation", illuminated initial from a Psalter and Book of Hours, use of Paris, ms. lat. 32, f. 204v, 15th century, Bibliothèque de Genève, Geneva.