Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gueranger)
Posted on 09/07/2018 9:07:10 PM PDT by CMRosary
LET US CELEBRATE THE NATIVITY of the Virgin Mary; let us adore her Son, Christ our Lord. Such is the invitation addressed to us today by the Church. Let us hearken to her call; let us enter into her overflowing joy. The Bridegroom is at hand, for his throne is now set up on earth; yet a little while, and he will appear in the diadem of our human nature, wherewith his Mother is to crown him on the day of the joy of his heart, and of ours. Today, as on the glorious Assumption, the sacred Canticle is heard; but this time it belongs more to earth than to heaven.
Truly a better Paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavor to enter thee; thy Cherubim may leave the gates and return to heaven. What are thy beautiful fruits to us, since we cannot touch them without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us.
Hail, new world, far surpassing in magnificence the first creation! Hail blessed haven, where we find a calm after so many storms! Aurora dawns; the rainbow glitters in the heavens; the dove comes forth; the ark rests upon the earth, offering new destinies to the world. The haven, the aurora, the rainbow, the dove, the ark of salvation, the Paradise of the heavenly Adam, the creation whereof the former was but a shadow: all this art thou, sweet infant, in whom already dwell all grace, all truth, all life.
Thou art the little cloud, which the father of prophets in the suppliant anguish of his soul awaited; and thou bringest refreshment to the parched earth. Under the weakness of thy fragile form, appears the Mother of fair love and of holy hope. Thou art that other light cloud of exquisite fragrance, which our desert sends up to heaven. In the incomparable humility of thy soul, which knows not itself, the Angels, standing like armed warriors around thy cradle, recognize their Queen.
O Tower of the true David; citadel withstanding the first shock of Satan’s attack, and breaking all his power; true Sion, founded on the holy mountains, the highest summits of virtue; temple and palace, feebly foreshadowed by those of Solomon; house built by Eternal Wisdom for herself: the faultless lines of thy fair architecture were planned from all eternity. Together with Emmanuel, who predestined thee for his home of delights, thou art thyself, O blessed child, the crowning point of creation, the divine ideal fully realized on earth.
Let us, then, understand the Church when, even on this day, she proclaims thy divine maternity, and unites in her chants of praise the birth of Emmanuel and thine own. He who, being Son of God by essence, willed to be also Son of man, had, before all other designs, decreed that he would have a Mother. Such, consequently, was the primordial, absolute character of that title of mother, that in the eternal decree, it was one with the very being of the chosen creature, the motive and cause of her existence, as well as the source of all her perfections natural and supernatural. We too, then, must recognize thee as Mother, even from thy very cradle, and must celebrate thy birthday by adoring thy Son our Lord.
Inasmuch as it embraces all the brethren of the Man-God, thy blessed maternity sheds its rays upon all time, both before and after this happy day. God is our king before ages: he hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. “The midst of the earth,” says the Abbot of Clairvaux, “admirably represents Mary. Mary is the center of the universe, the ark of God, the cause of creation, the business of ages. Towards her turn the inhabitants of heaven and the dwellers in the place of expiation, the men that have gone before us, and we that are now living, those who are to follow us, our children’s children and their descendants. Those in heaven look to her to have their ranks filled up; those in purgatory look for their deliverance; the men of the first ages, that they may be found faithful prophets; those that come after, that they may obtain eternal happiness. Mother of God, Queen of heaven, Sovereign of the world, all generations shall call thee blessed, for thou hast brought forth life and glory for all. In thee the Angels ever find their joy, the just find grace, sinners pardon; in thee, and by thee, and from thee, the merciful hand of the Almighty has reformed the first creation.”
Andrew of Crete calls this day a solemnity of entrance, a feast of beginning, whose end is the union of the Word with our flesh; a virginal feast, full of joy and confidence for all. “All ye nations, come hither,” cries St. John Damascene; “come every race and every tongue, every age and every dignity, let us joyfully celebrate the birthday of the world’s gladness.” “It is the beginning of salvation, the origin of every feast,” says St. Peter Damian, “for behold! the Mother of the Bridegroom is born. With good reason does the whole world rejoice today; and the Church, beside herself, bids her choirs sing wedding songs.”
Not only do the Doctors of the East and West use similar language in praise of Mary’s birth, but moreover the Latin and Greek Churches sing, each in its own tongue, the same beautiful formula to close the office of the feast: “Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God, brought joy to the whole world: for out of thee arose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God: who, taking off the curse, hath bestowed blessing; and, defeating death, hath given us life everlasting.”
This union of Rome and Byzantium in the celebration of today’s festival, dates back as far as the seventh century at least; beyond that we cannot speak with anything like certitude, nor is it known when the feast was first instituted. It is supposed to have originated at Angers, towards the year 430, by an apparition of our Lady to the holy bishop Maurillus in the fields of Marillais; and hence the name of Notre Dame Angevine often given to the feast. In the eleventh century Chartres, the city of Mary, claims for its own Fulbert, together with Robert the Pious, a principal share in the spreading of the glorious solemnity throughout France. It is well known how intimate the bishop was with the king; and how the latter himself set to music the three admirable Responsories composed by Fulbert, wherein he celebrates the rising of the mysterious star that was to give birth to the Sun; the branch springing from the rod of Jesse, and producing the divine Flower whereon the Holy Spirit was to rest; and the merciful power which caused Mary to blossom in Judæa like the rose on the thorn.
In the year 1245, in the third Session of the first Council of Lyons (the same session which deposed Frederick II from the empire), Innocent IV established for the whole Church not the feast, which was already kept everywhere, but the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (detailed in Giovan Domenico Mansi’s Sacrorum conciliorum, volume xxiii). It was the accomplishment of a vow made by him and the other Cardinals during the Church’s widowhood, which, throughout the intrigues of the crafty emperor, lasted nineteen months after the death of Celestine IV, and which was brought to a close by the election of Sinibaldo Fieschi under the name of Innocent.
In 1377, the great Pope Gregory XI, who broke the chains of captivity in Avignon, wished to add a Vigil to the solemnity of our Lady’s birthday. But whether he merely expressed a desire to this effect, as did his successor Urban VI with regard to a fast on the eve of the Visitation, or whether for some other reason, the intentions of the holy Pope were carried out for only a very short time during the years of trouble that followed his death.
Together with the Church, let us ask, as the fruit of this sweet feast, for that peace which seems to flee ever farther and farther from our unhappy times. Our Lady was born during the second of the three periods of universal peace wherewith the reign of Augustus was blessed, the last of which ushered in the Prince of peace himself.
The temple of Janus is closed; in the eternal City a mysterious fountain of oil has sprung up from the spot where the first sanctuary of the Mother of God is one day to be built; signs and portents are multiplied; the whole world is in expectation; the poet has sung: “Behold the last age, foretold by the Sybil, is at hand; behold the great series of new worlds is beginning; behold the Virgin!”
In Judæa, the scepter has been taken away from Juda; but the usurper of his power, Herod the Idumæan, is hastening to complete the splendid restoration which will enable the second Temple worthily to receive within its walls the Ark of the New Covenant.
It is the sabbatical month, the first of the civil year, the seventh of the sacred cycle; the month of Tisri which begins the repose of each seventh year, and in which is announced the holy hear of Jubilee; the most joyous of months, with its solemn Neomenia celebrated with trumpets and singing, its feast of Tabernacles, and the commemoration of the completion of Solomon’s Temple.
In the heavens, the sun in his passage through the Zodiac,has just left the sign of Leo to enter that of Virgo. On earth, two obscure descendants of David, Joachim and Anne, are thanking God for having blessed their long-barren union.
The Church intones the beautiful song of Prudentius to the Mother of God; for, like the Most High, she looks upon Mary as already Mother, since such she has been by predestination from all eternity. Our Lady answers the Church’s greeting, by the song of the bride, the psalm of the epithalamium, which no one else could ever sing as she can even from this her first day.
The liturgy here leaves the historical order of events, to follow that of the annual cycle, which began with the weeks of Advent. Thus, in the Collect we pray that the mystery of today may develop in us the work of sanctification and peace begin at Bethlehem.
In private Masses, after the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion of the feast, a commemoration is made of St. Adrian.
When princes are born, we prognosticate their future greatness by recalling the glory of their ancestors. The Church does in like manner today. The Gospel will recount the temporal genealogy of Messias, which is also the genealogy of her, who was born for the very purpose of giving birth to Him. But first, this passage from the Book of Proverbs sets before us the divine origin of the Son and of the Mother. It is of both that eternal Wisdom says: “Before the hills I was brought forth: when He prepared the heavens, I was present.”
Our weak human nature, subject to time, can conceive of things only according to the series of their progressive evolutions; but God sees them independently of time, which He rules with His eternity; He sees them in the order of mutual dependence in which He has placed them with a view to the manifestation of His glory. With God, the beginning and the principle of every work is the purpose for which it is done. Now the Most High acts outside Himself solely to reveal Himself, by His Word made Flesh and become the Son of a created Mother as He is the Son of the Creator. The God-Man as end, Mary as the means: such is the object of the eternal decrees, the purpose of the world’s existence, the fundamental conception, with regard to which all else is but accessory and dependent.
O Lady, who dost deign to call us also thy children, it is well for us that thy goodness is equal to thy greatness! Happy is the human race for having waited and watched for thee during so many long ages, and for having found thee at length; for with thee is salvation and life.
In the Gradual the Church again sings of Mary’s virginal and divine maternity; for this is the day which gave us the Mother of God.
Mary of whom was born Jesus: these words contain the whole mystery of our Lady, the title which expresses her whole being according to both nature and grace; for, Jesus, who was to be born of Mary, to be made of a woman, was from the beginning the hidden reason of all creation, to be manifested in the fulness of time. This was God’s great work, of which the prophet said in ecstasy: “O Lord, thy work … in the midst of the years Thou shalt make it known … the holy One shall come from the shady mountain … The hills of the world were bowed down by the journeys of His eternity.” This mountain, from whence the holy One, the Eternal, the Ruler of the world, is to come, is the blessed Virgin Mary, whom the power of the Most High will overshadow, and who, at her very birth, is set far above all the heights of earth and of heaven.
The days, then, are accomplished. Ever since the hour when the eternal Trinity came forth from their repose to create heaven and earth, all the generations of heaven and earth have been in labor to bring forth the day which is to give a Mother to the Son of God. Parallel with the direct line from Abraham and David to the Messias, all human genealogies have been preparing for Mary the generation of adoptive sons whom Jesus is to make His brethren.
With the Church, let us congratulate our Lady on this her sublime maternity, which embraces all creatures together with the Creator.
May this maternity, and the virginity which it sealed, draw us ever nearer to the Son of Mary and the Son of God; may they unite us in greater purity to the Sacrifice prepared on the altar.
When we receive our Lord in holy Communion, let us not forget that we owe His coming to the blessed child who was born on this day nineteen centuries ago.
May the annual return of the beautiful feast never be without fruit in our souls; and may the adorable mysteries it has led us to receive, deliver us from evils both temporal and eternal. This is what we ask for in the Postcommunion.
After the Collect of the feast, a commemoration is made of a holy martyr, whom the Church associates in the honors paid to our Lady on the second day of her earthly life. Gorgonius was chamberlain of the emperor Diocletian. The “saints of Cæsar’s household,” whose greetings St. Paul sent to the Philippians, had, ever since then, been increasing in numbers. Eusebius shows that before the last persecution they were in great favor with the emperors; such preference was shown them, that they were exempted from all participation in public rites in order that they might accept the government of the provinces. In the palace, their wives, children, and servants, were allowed full liberty to practice and profess their faith; so much so, that the court of Nicomedia formed as it were a little church around the empress Prisca and her daughter Valeria, who were then Christians, but who, unhappily, did not persevere.
It required all the craft of Galerius to make Diocletian publish the bloody edicts of the year 303 against the religion of such devoted men, whom he loved, says Eusebius, as his own sons. But once the gate of martyrdom was opened, and Cæsar had become Nero once more, the officers of the palace surpassed in glory all the other heroes of Christ illustrious for their courage throughout the empire, and even beyond its limits. Chief among these valiant men, the historian mentions Peter, Drotheus, and Gorgonius. The relics of the last-named were afterwards translated to Rome; it is on this account that he has a place in the Roman calendar, where he has the honor of being in the cortège of the Mother of God.
In honor of our sweet Lady’s birth, let us sing the beautiful responsories composed by Fulbert of Chartres and Robert the Pious. France first adopted them, and the whole of Europe soon followed her example.
At length, O Mary, our earth possesses thee! Thy birth reveals to it the secret of its destiny, the secret of that love which called it from nothingness, that it might become the palace of the God who dwelt above the heavens. But what a mystery, that poor, weak humanity, inferior to the angels by nature, should be chosen to give to the angels their King and their Queen! Their King they will soon adore, a new-born Babe in thine arms; their Queen they reverence today, admiring thee in thy cradle as only angels can admire. In the beginning these morning stars, these noble spirits, contemplated the manifestations of almighty power, and praised the Most High; yet never did their eager gaze discover such a marvel as that which delights their eyes at this hour: God, more purely imaged under a corporeal veil, under the fragile form of an infant one day old, than in all the strength and all the beauty of their nine angelic choirs; God, so captivated by such weakness united, by His grace, to such love, that He made it the culminating point of His work by determining to manifest His Son therein!
Queen of angels, thou art our Queen also; accept us as thy liegemen. On this day, when the first movement of thy holy soul was towards God, and the first smile of thy lovely eye was for thy happy parents, may holy Anne allow us to kneel and kiss thy little hand, already filled with the divine bounties of which thou art the predestined dispenser. And now, grow up, sweet little one! Let thy feet be strengthened to crush the serpent, and thy arms to carry the treasure of the world! Angels and men, the whole of nature, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all are awaiting the solemn moment, when Gabriel may fly down from heaven to hail thee full of grace, and bring thee the message of eternal love.
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