Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Feast of the Enunciation?

I miss the Weekly World News! It stands head–and-shoulders above the rest of the tabloids for sheer exuberance and hilarity. Other tabloids waste their time and efforts on Brangelina and Brittany Spears stories, while WWW sticks with the straight "news" of alien cab drivers and three-headed chihuahuas.

At various times, I have purchased subscriptions to WWW for my old lab boss, so it would come proudly addressed to his faculty mail box, and for one of the Major Consulting Firm partners so it would be delivered in his name to the front desk at the office.

Rediscovered last spring on the antiquities 'grey market,' the apocryphal Gospel of Stephen is rewriting Christian tradition in hundreds of churches around the world.

"It gives us a whole new picture of how the angel Gabriel told Mary she'd one day give birth to Jesus Christ," said Father Peter Emmel.

Now thousands of faithful, in nearly all Christian denominations, will celebrate the feast of the Biblical 'Enunciation,' in which the Virgin Mother asked Gabriel if he could please repeat his announcement.

Christians usually celebrate the angel's declaration on March 25th of each year. The new Enunciation feast will also be observed on the 25th, but a few minutes later, during a second course nearly identical to the first.

According to Father Emmel, "priests will lead their congregations in prayers of penitence. Then the congregations will beg for pardon, and the mass will be repeated."

Some Church leaders oppose the changes. But Father Emmel and other proponents of the new Gospel note that the Enunciation was in fact known - and embraced - by many Church authorities in antiquity.

"El Greco even painted a version of the Enunciation in 1574, with the angel Gabriel supporting a golden trumpet against Mary's ear," Father Emmel said.

Mary is famously associated with several other mishearings in the Christian religion, notably the common garbling of the Christmas Carol "Silent Night," misheard by many to describe the Blessed Mother as "Round John Virgin."

The rediscovery of the Stephen Gospel may help explain this quirk of the Christian faith - even as the new gospel transforms the religion with impressive speed.

"I've christened five childen 'Enunziata' already," said Father Emmel. "Things have never changed faster."

The Dan Brown novel will no doubt be following shortly, as well as a symposium on “Lost Christianities” at the Episcopal Seminary. God bless us everyone.