What Announces Itself with the Spring

Venus meets the Sun at superior conjunction, Thursday, March 25, the Feast of Annunciation in the Christian calendar, and the day on which Dante scholars agree The Divine Comedy begins.
This years marks the 700th anniversary of Dante’s completing his masterwork, which makes March 25 “Dante Day” and allows for imagining Venus as Beatrice, come to guide all pilgrims through the spheres in the sacred season now upon us. Dante describes the journey through the Inferno, the Purgatory and the Paradise as happening over the course of one week, the Holy Week at Easter, and though it is Beatrice who summons Virgil to rescue Dante from the three beasts he encounters at the outset of to poem, Dante doesn’t encounter Beatrice himself until he arrives at the earthly paradise, in Canto XXX of the Purgatory:
Oft have I seen, when break of day was nigh,
The orient flashing with a rose-red gleam,
The rest of heaven adorned with calm blue sky,
Seen the sun’s face rise shadowy and dim
Through veils of mist, so tempering his powers,
The eye might long endure to look on him;
So, even so, through cloud on cloud of flowers
Flung from angelic hands and falling down
Over the car and all around in showers,
In a white veil beneath an olive-crown
Appeared to me a lady cloaked in green,
And living flame the color of her gown…
~Purgatorio, Canto XXX, lines 22-33
In the early Christian centuries, and well into the Middle Ages, March 25th was significant in the round of  feasts festivals of the year, especially since it was believed that the world came into being on that day, a glorious springtime thousands of years earlier.

Looking into the Christian Calendar, we find that March 24th is the Feast of the Archangel Gabriel, the overseeing divinity at the time of the incarnation of the Christ. March 25th, then, is honored as the Feast of Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary that, should she accept, she will be the bearer of the Christ Child, who is then born nine months later, on December 25th.

This mystery of “spiritual annunciation” is not confined to Christianity, and it’s also not a coincidence that it’s observed at this time of year. We’re close to Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere right now, and this point in the yearly cycle was long-held to be the spiritual new year, if not the actual beginning of the year in the calendar. In fact, the time of equinox marked the beginning of the new year until the 1st century BC, when Julius Caesar adjusted the calendar and established January 1st as new year’s day.

Then there’s Dante, and his masterwork The Divine Comedy. Dante’s epic journey occurred over the course of one week that began on March 25th. So this year in Italy, exactly 700 years after the Comedy was completed, March 25 is being celebrated as Dante Day!

In perfect poetic harmony, on March 25th the planet Venus will meet the Sun in superior conjunction, gathering up all the cosmic love and beauty for bearing earthward when Venus becomes our evening star in a few weeks. I’m imagining that Venus is like Dante’s Beatrice, the divine feminine who summons Virgil to escort Dante, until she comes for him in the paradise.

So be on the look out for love and beauty this week, and for the annunciation it’s making in your life right now. The planets are gesturing, the year is opening, and great works of art are sounding out a timeless rhythm, if we can hear it.

You can hear this segment on my podcast The Storyteller’s Night Sky, and at the Interlochen Public Radio website.

For the love that moves the sun and all the stars,

Mary Stewart Adams

Image above of Beatrice in her chariot, by William Blake (1757-1827)