25 March 2004

The Feast of the Incarnation

I was a bit startled this morning to realise that today was the Feast of the Annunciation. I mustn't have been paying attention at mass on Sunday because I'm sure it would have been mentioned.

Whenever the eighth of December comes around, and I explain that I've gone to mass because it's the feast of the Immaculate Conception, someone always laughs and says 'Well, that was a short pregnancy!'. Understandably, they assume the 'Immaculate Conception' refers to the conception of Jesus rather than that of Mary. C.S. Lewis, in an essay on 'Christian Apologetics' rather observes that 'In the mouth of an uneducated speaker [the term 'Immaculate Conception'] always means virgin birth.' He makes that sound rather offensive, but his point is valid.

The feast of the Annunciation almost marks the conception of Jesus; it is, after all, exactly nine months prior to the day we celebrate his birth. It is, more precisely, the day we remember the visitation of the Archangel Gabriel to Our Lady, as narrated by Saint Luke in thirteen short verses. The angel hails Mary as full of God's grace, informing her that she would bear the Christ, that the son of God would be formed from her flesh. The young Mary answers with the humble acknowledgement that she is God's servant, and that as such she will obey his will.

Depicted by innumerable artists over the centuries, notably Fra Angelico, Botticelli, El Greco, and Rossetti, this episode was understandably latched onto by early Christians as being of immense significance in the Gospels. To take one example, just as Eve's disobedience had brought sin into the world, so Mary's obedience - as recorded by Luke - was to herald a new age of life; Mary was thus seen as a 'new Eve', perpetually at odds with Satan and a suitable helper for the 'new Adam' that was her son.

So, realising that this was a big one, I scurried off towards the University, spending a few minutes before mass at Benediction in the Holy Name, and then slipping into the chaplaincy for mass. This time I found some nerve and came upstairs to where the CAFOD lunch was on - I enjoyed chatting to the other students there, being startled to find that one, Siobhan, not merely comes from Galway but also knows Erica and Ben - of recent car accident infamy. The priest, Father Ian Kelly, seemed nice too; we chatted just for a minute, him coming from Kilcock, which isn't too far from my home turf. He seemed to find my 'posh Dublin accent' quite amusing; odd that, since I doubt my posher Dublin friends would see it as even remotely posh. Ah well. Will I ever fit in anywhere?

Speaking of Virgins
On an entirely different note, has anybody seen the new ad for Virgin Mobile? Busta Rhymes gets himself into a spot of trouble on a plane because he can't restrain his urge to press random buttons. The ad signs off by announcing 'The Devil makes work for idle thumbs. Text another Virgin mobile for 3p'

Is Richard Branson really implying that it's okay to use mobile phones on his planes provided that they're Virgin phones?

And finally... O'Higgins, or what's left of him, must be turning in his grave
According to this article in today's Irish Times, it looks like publicans at home who fail to enforce the smoking ban which kicks in just a few days will face prosecution and lose their licenses. Apparently, if somebody lights up they should be told by the publican to stop; should they get stroppy the guards should be called.*

The ever-stroppy P.J. Stone of the Garda Representative Association has sneered at this, remarking that
"It's not a function for a police force at all. We haven't resources to deal with far more serious issues, not to mind dealing with obstreperous smoker... It seems now gardaí will have to police the public-order side of the smoking ban. It will alienate the police force. I think it's very unfair that members of the gardaí should have to police a smoking ban when it becomes a public-order issue."
Really? Unfair that the Guards should have to police things which become public-order issues? Unfair that the Guardians of the Peace should have to maintain that peace? I keep thinking about my old Inter Cert History Notes, where according to my old and wonderful Inter Cert history teacher Maurice Hartigan, Kevin O'Higgins, the hard man of the first Cumann na nGaedhal government, put down a mutiny in the Irish army in 1924, saying something along the lines of "those who take the pay and wear the uniform of the state must be the non-political servants of the state."

Stone really ought to keep his mouth shut occasionally.
* Though I can't see any reason why publicans shouldn't be able to enforce this; they have no qualms about stopping people consuming food and drink that haven't been bought on the premises.

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