Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] The Annunciation of the Ever Blessed Virgin (Gueranger)
Posted on 04/08/2018 9:06:28 PM PDT by CMRosary
[Transferred from 25th March, to allow for the Solemnities of Easter.]
THIS IS A GREAT DAY, not only to man, but even to God himself; for it is the anniversary of the most solemn event that time has ever witnessed. On this day, the Divine Word, by which the Father created the world, was made flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and dwelt among us. We must spend it in joy. While we adore the Son of God who humbled himself by thus becoming Man, let us give thanks to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give his Only Begotten Son; let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost, whose almighty power achieves the great mystery. We are in the very midst of Lent, and yet the ineffable joys of Christmas are upon us: our Emmanuel is conceived on this day, and nine months hence, will be born in Bethlehem, and the Angels will invite us to come and honor the sweet Babe.
During Septuagesima Week, we meditated upon the fall of our First Parents and the triple sentence pronounced by God against the serpent, the woman, and Adam. Our hearts were filled with fear as we reflected on the divine malediction, the effects of which are to be felt by all generations, even to the end of the world. But in the midst of the anathemas then pronounced against us, there was a promise made us by our God; it was a promise of salvation, and it enkindled hope within us. In pronouncing sentence against the serpent, God said that his head should one day be crushed, and that too by a Woman.
The time has come for the fulfillment of this promise. The world has been in expectation for four thousand years; and the hope of its deliverance has been kept up, in spite of all its crimes. During this time, God has made use of miracles, prophecies, and types, as a renewal of the engagement he has entered into with mankind. The blood of the Messias has passed from Adam to Noah; from Sem to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim; and now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim’s Daughter. Mary is the Woman by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate; and thereby has set an irreconcilable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her Mother’s fall; she is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast; she is to cooperate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over his and our enemy.
A tradition, which has come down from the Apostolic Ages, tell us that the great Mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March. It was at the hour of midnight, when the most Holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her, and asked her, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, to consent to become the Mother of God. Let us assist, in spirit, at this wonderful interview between the Angel and the Virgin: and at the same time, let us think of that other interview, which took place between Eve and the serpent. A holy Bishop and Martyr of the 2nd century, Saint Ireneus—who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the Apostles—shows us that Nazareth is the counterpart of Eden.
In the garden of delights, there is a virgin and an angel; and a conversation takes place between them. At Nazareth, a virgin is also spoken to by an angel, and she answers him; but the angel of the earthly Paradise is a spirit of darkness, and he of Nazareth is a spirit of light. In both instances, it is the Angel that has the first word. Why, said the serpent to Eve, why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of Paradise? His question implies impatience and a solicitation to evil; he has contempt for the frail creature to whom he addresses it, but he hates the image of God which is upon her.
See, on the other hand, the Angel of light; see with what composure and peacefulness he approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve; and how respectfully he bows himself down before her: Hail full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women! Such language is evidently of heaven: none but an Angel could speak thus to Mary.
Eve imprudently listens to the tempter’s words; she answers him; she enters into conversation with one that dares to ask her to question the justice of God’s commands. Her curiosity urges her on. She has no mistrust in the serpent; this leads her to mistrust her Creator.
Mary hears what Gabriel has spoken to her; but this Most Prudent Virgin is silent. She is surprised at the praise given her by the Angel. The purest and humblest of Virgins has a dread of flattery; and the heavenly Messenger can get no reply from her until he has fully explained his mission by these words: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
What magnificent promises are these which are made to her in the name of God! What higher glory could she, a daughter of Juda, desire? knowing too, as she does, that the fortunate Mother of the Messias is to be the object of the greatest veneration! And yet it tempts her not. She has forever consecrated her virginity to God, in order that she may be the more closely united to him by love. The grandest possible privilege, if it is to be on the condition of her violating this sacred vow, would be less than nothing in her estimation. She thus answers the Angel: How shall this be done? because I know not man.
The first Eve evinces no such prudence or disinterestedness. No sooner has the wicked spirit assured her that she may break the commandment of her divine benefactor and not die; that the fruit of her disobedience will be a wonderful knowledge, which will put her on an equality with God himself—than she immediately yields; she is conquered. Her self-love has made her at once forget both duty and gratitude: she is delighted at the thought of being freed from the two-fold tie, which binds her to her Creator.
Such is the woman that caused our perdition! But how different is She that was to save us! The former cares not for her posterity; she looks but to her own interests: the latter forgets herself to think only of her God, and of the claims he has to her service. The Angel, charmed with this sublime fidelity, thus answers the question put to him by Mary, and reveals to her the designs of God: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God. This said, he is silent, and reverently awaits the answer of the Virgin of Nazareth.
Let us look once more at the virgin of Eden. Scarcely has the wicked spirit finished speaking than Eve casts a longing look at the forbidden fruit: she is impatient to enjoy the independence it is to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand; she plucks the fruit; she eats it, and death takes possession of her: death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life; and death of the body, which, being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror, and finally crumbles into dust.
But let us turn away our eyes from this sad spectacle, and fix them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the Angel’s explanation of the mystery; the will of heaven is made known to her, and how grand an honor it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God, and yet the treasure of her Virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will, and says to the heavenly Messenger: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.
Thus, as the great St. Ireneus and so many of the Holy Fathers remark, the obedience of the second Eve repaired the disobedience of the first: for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her FIAT—be it done—than the Eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the chaste womb of Mary, and there he begins his human life. A Virgin is a Mother, and Mother of God; and it is this Virgin’s consenting to the divine will that has made her conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sublime Mystery puts between the Eternal Word and a mere woman the relations of Son and Mother; it gives to the Almighty God a means whereby he may, in a manner worthy of his Majesty, triumph over Satan, who had hitherto seemed to have prevailed against the divine plan.
Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat, than that which was this day gained over Satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of his vengeance; the humiliation of Satan would not have been great enough; and therefore she who was the first prey of hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected as the one that is to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph is that Mary is to be superior not only to the rebel angels, but to the whole human race, yea, to all the Angels of heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her; and in heaven, the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary, and deem themselves honored when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God.
Therefore is it that we the children of Adam, who have been snatched by Mary’s obedience from the power of hell, solemnize this day of the Annunciation. Well may we say of Mary those words of Debbora, when she sang her song of victory over the enemies of God’s people: The valiant men cased, and rested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a Mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and he himself overthrew the gates of the enemies. Let us also refer to the holy Mother of Jesus these words of Judith, who, by her victory over the enemy, was another type of Mary: Praise ye the Lord our God, who hath not forsaken them that hope in him. And by me, his handmaid, he hath fulfilled his mercy, which he promised to the house of Israel; and he hath killed the enemy of his people by my hand this night … The Almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.
MASS.—The Church has taken most of the chants of today’s Mass from the Forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the Royal Prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It was her Virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy Virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her that is their Mother and their model.
In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine Maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with this God who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our Faith, and was accomplished on this twenty-fifth of March.
To this is added the Collect for the Feria of Lent.
The Prophet is speaking to a wicked king who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God’s merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating today: A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son. And when was it that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. The fullness of time came, and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a Virgin should bring forth a son—was exciting much interest. This is the day on which the Mystery was accomplished; let us adore the power of God and the fidelity wherewith he fulfills his promises. The author of the laws of nature suspends them; he acts independently of them—Virginity and Maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be born is God. A Virgin could not bring forth other than God himself: the Son of Mary is, therefore, called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.
Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles himself. Henceforth, he will have every tongue confess, not only his divinity, but also his Human Nature, which he has assumed in order that he might redeem us. From this day forward, he is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in his Mother’s womb, as other children. Like them, he will, after his birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for he is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that he might restore the Old. Without losing aught of his Divinity, he shares in our weak finite being, that he may make us partakers of the divine nature.
In the Gradual, the Church unites with David in praising the beauty of the Emmanuel, his kingdom and his strength; for he comes in humility, that he may rise again in glory; he comes to give battle that he may conquer and triumph.
The Church continues the same Canticle in the Trace, but it is in praise of Mary, the Virgin and Mother. The Holy Ghost loves her for her incomparable beauty: it is on this day that he overshadows her and she conceives the Word. Where is there a glory like that of Mary, who is an object of complacency to the Three Persons of the Trinity? God could create nothing more exalted than the Mother of God. David foretells how this, his daughter, was to be surrounded by holy Virgins, who would follow her as their Queen and Model. This day is also the triumph of her Virginity, for it is raised to the dignity of divine Maternity! Her triumph frees her sex from slavery, and renders it capable of everything that is honorable and great.
By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of Heaven, and thy consent brings us our Savior. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the Angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over Satan!—St. Bernard, in one of his Homilies on this Gospel thus speaks: “Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our Parents, but you were also our destroyers; and what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a Daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time is now come when the humiliation is taken away, neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: The woman, whom thou gavest me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat. Go, Eve, to Mary; go, Mother, to thy Daughter; let thy Daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.
“What is this thou sayest, Adam? The woman, whom thou gavest me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat? These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness by finding in the treasury of his own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which he had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman, of whom thou complainest, he gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is Wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the Tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: The Woman, whom thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the Tree of Life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it thou hast given me life.”
In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the Archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of God.
In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the Mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two Natures, Divine and Human, in Jesus Christ5, the Son of God and Son of Mary.
To this is added the Secret for the Feria of Lent.
The greatness of the Solemnity obliges the Church to substitute, for the Lenten Preface, the one she uses on our Lady’s Feasts.
The Communion-Anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a Virgin that has conceived and brought forth Him who, being God and Man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us and in us.
In the Postcommunion, the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the Mysteries which God has achieved for our Salvation, and which were the consequences of the one of today. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our Human Nature, we have had the Passion of this our Divine Redeemer; and his Passion was followed by his Resurrection, whereby he triumphed over our enemy, Death.
To this is added the Postcommunion for the Feria of Lent.
O Emmanuel, God with us! who, as thy Church says in her Hymn, “being to take upon thee to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb,”—the whole human race gives thanks to thee, on this day, for thy merciful coming. O Eternal Word of the Father! it was not enough for thee to have drawn man out of nothing by thy power; thine exhaustless love would follow him even to the abyss of misery into which he had fallen. By sin, man had forfeited the dignity thou hadst given him; that he might regain it, thou didst come in person and assume his nature, so to raise him up again to thyself. In thee, from this day forward unto all eternity, God is made man, and man is made God. Thy Incarnation is the fulfillment of the promises made in the Canticle; thou unitest thyself to human nature, and it is in the virginal womb of a daughter of David that thou celebratest these ineffable espousals. O incomprehensible humiliation! O ineffable glory! The humiliation is for the Son of God, the glory is for the son of man. Thus hast thou loved us, O Divine Word! thus hast thou removed from us the degradation of our fall! The rebel angels fell, and thou didst leave them in the abyss; we fell, and thou hadst mercy on us. A single look of thy pity would have sufficed to save us; but it would not satisfy thy love; therefore didst thou descend into this world of sin, take upon thyself the form of a slave, and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh! who comest not to judge, but to save! we adore thee, we praise thee, we love thee. Make us worthy of all that thy love has led thee to do for us.
We salute thee, O Mary, full of grace, on this the day whereon thou didst receive thy sublime dignity of Mother of God. Thy incomparable purity drew down upon thee the love of the great Creator, and thy humility drew him into thy womb; his presence within thee increased the holiness of thy spirit and the purity of thy body. What must have been thy happiness in knowing that this Son of God was living by thy life, and was taking from thine own substance the new being, which his love for us induced him to assume! Between thee and him is formed that ineffable union which is granted to none else but to thee: he is thy Creator, and thou art his Mother; he is thy Son, and thou art his Creature. Every knee bows down before him, O Mary! for he is the great God of heaven and earth; but every creature reveres thee, also, for thou hast carried him in thy womb, thou hast fed him at thy breast; thou alone canst say to him, as does his heavenly Father: Thou art my Son! O Mother of Jesus! thou art the greatest of God’s works: receive the humble homage of mankind, for thou art most dear to us, seeing that thou art of the same flesh and blood as ourselves. Thou art a Daughter of Eve, but without her sin. By the obedience to the divine decrees, thou savest thy mother and her race; thou restorest Adam and his children to the innocence they had lost. Jesus, whom thou bearest in thy womb, is our pledge that all these blessings are to be ours; and it is by thee that he comes to us. Without Jesus, we should abide in death; without thee, we should not have had him to redeem us. It is from thy virginal womb that he receives the precious Blood which is to be our ransom, that Blood whose purity he protected in thy Immaculate Conception, and which becomes the Blood of God by the union that is consummated in thee of the Divine with the Human Nature.
Today, O Mary! is fulfilled in thee the promise made by God after Adam’s sin—that he would put enmity between the Woman and the Serpent. Up to this time, the human race had not the courage to resist the enemy; it was subservient to him, and everywhere were altars raised up in his honor; but on this day, his head is crushed beneath thy foot. Thy humility, thy purity, thy obedience, have conquered him; his tyranny is checked. By thee we are delivered from his sway; and nothing but our own perversity and ingratitude could again give him the mastery. Let not this be, O Mary! Come to our assistance. During this Season of repentance, we humbly acknowledge that we have abused the grace of God; we beseech thee, on this the Feast of thy Annunciation, intercede for us with Him who, on this day, became thy Son. Holy Mother of God! by the salutation addressed to thee by the Angel Gabriel, by thy virginal fear, by thy fidelity to God, by thy prudent humility, by thy consent—obtain for us conversion of heart and sincere repentance; prepare us for the great Mysteries we are about to celebrate. These Mysteries are so full of sorrow to thy maternal heart, and yet thou wouldst have us rejoice on this day, as we think on the ineffable happiness which filled thy soul at the solemn moment when the Holy Ghost overshadowed thee, and the Son of God became thine. Yes, Blessed Mother of Jesus! we will spend the whole of this day near thee, in thy humble dwelling at Nazareth. Nine months hence, we will follow thee to Bethlehem, and there, in company with the Shepherds and the Angels, we will prostrate ourselves in adoration before the Infant-God, our Savior: we will join our voices with those of the heavenly host, and we will thus express our gladness: Glory be to God in the highest! and peace on earth to men of good will!
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