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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sermons For Feast of the Annunciation

Sermons For Feast of the Annunciation
"And the angel Gabriel was sent by God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth,
and the name of the virgin was Mary."--Luke 1.


Athwart the somber season of Lent, the deepening shadows of which grow darker still until the bright dawn of the resurrection morn dispels their gloom, there flashes the glory of a divine fact which gives to this festival of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary a rank equal to that of the greatest feast of the Church. This divine fact may well inspire our hearts with the most tender, the most exquisite, the most joyful, affections of thanksgiving, for to its existence we are indebted for the inestimable grace of Redemption.

It was upon this day, beloved in Christ, that the angel Gabriel--to whom God had given in charge the precious soul of her whom He had from all eternity chosen to be the Mother of the Word Incarnate--bore to the tender Virgin, whose purity had never been tarnished by the slighest breath of evil, the joyful tidings that she was, while preserving the pearl of virginity, to become the Mother of God.

It was upon this day, then, that the Son of God assumed our human nature for the redemption and salvation of fallen man; and yet there is, in general, but too little attention devoted to the consideration of the mystery we commemorate thereon; for, by the greater number of Christians, it is regarded and celebrated simply as a feast in honor of Mary. But, in fact, it is the very corner-stone upon which rest all the other feasts,--commemorating, as it does, an event which can not fail to fill the human heart with adoration, gratitude, and the most intense consolation.

Every thing depended upon the decree of God whether, in His infinite mercy, He would be pleased to stretch forth His arm and rescue the human race from the abyss of a wretchedness too profound almost to be conceived. But, since "the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary" the message of salvation, and the Son of God assumed on that very day her flesh, everything was changed; and from the Feast of the Annunciation came forth Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the eternal triumph of the Church.

Let us consider today the message of the angel to Mary in its divine sublimity, as well as in the importance with which it is invested for the children of men. O Mary, who was already full of grace when the angel saluted thee, and elected thee not only to become the Mother of God, but also Mother of all the children of God, accept us today as thy children! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

If, my beloved Christians, the words of the holy gospels--whenever we open the pages of the inspired volume, but especially when we hear them from the lips of the priest on the occasion of the celebration of the feasts of the Church--tend ever to inspire us with joy, and to elevate our hearts to God, this is especially true of the gospel which is set apart for this joyous day.

"At that time the angel Gabriel was sent to a town named Nazareth, to a Virgin called Mary." Blessed words! for, as often as we hear them, the happy event which we commemorate today arises immediately before our eyes, clear and distinct, as if we had been present when the glory of the angel irradiated the humble little room at Nazareth. In spirit, we behold the Immaculate Virgin, united with her God in fervent prayer, oblivious of all but Him, when, lo! an angel of the Lord appeared before her. We can almost hear his voice, in the tones of which still linger the sweetness of that celestial music to which it were bliss to list.

We have every reason to learn and to ponder deeply upon the signification of this angelic message, which was a most holy, a most solemn, a most momentous, a most consoling, and joyful message, both for the Blessed Virgin and for her devoted children.

In every message the importance is increased or lessened according to the dignity of the sender. A message is brought to us by a relative, acquaintance, or inferior, and produces but little effect upon us; we may not even delay the messenger long enough to hear what he has to say.

But suppose a person of high rank has something to say to us,--a Prince, a King, an Emperor, the President, the Pope! With what consideration we treat the messenger! How very attentively we listen, that we may know precisely what he has to impart! Imagine, then, how important, and, at the same time, how holy, was the message of the angel! It came from the Most Holy Trinity--God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! It was the message of the Infinite Majesty, the most merciful sanctity of God to Mary, and, through her, to the entire human race!

It was a most solemn message. What invests a message with significance, is the form and manner in which it is transmitted. Here we behold an archangel--one of the seven princes of heaven--declaring the will of the Most High; and who can conceive what myriads of angels attended Gabriel when he presented himself before Mary, Queen of angels! Who can picture the profound respect with which he saluted her, in whom he already beheld the Mother of the Son of God made man! With what deep veneration he addressed her, the chosen one of all the daughters of Eve,--destined from all eternity to be exalted as mistress above the whole celestial choir!

It was a most momentous message, for the subject of a message is what constitutes its importance. It made known to the world, to the human race, that the possessions lost through Adam would be restored; it heralded a great victory gained over the enemy of souls; it announced that the foe, from whom death and destruction would surely come, was shorn of his terrible strength. Let us suppose that, being under sentence of death, we had been granted a reprieve, or rather that the sentence had been entirely revoked, and that we had come into the possession of a great fortune, by which our happiness is forever secured: would we not consider the message which brought us the news glad tidings of great joy?

Apply not one but all of these circumstances to the message conveyed to Mary by the angel, and we shall realize in some degree its stupendous character. Adam listened to the voice of the seducer, and his fall deprived his hapless posterity of their promised happiness,--that of being one day permitted to behold God face to face, in the possession and enjoyment of His beatitude and all the exquisite joys of heaven.

All this was lost. However, amid the gloom which, for four thousand years, hung over a world groveling in darkness and in sin, there glimmered one ray of light in the promise of a coming Redeemer; but the time set apart for the expected and desired event was yet unknown.

Then, when the fullness of time was accomplished, Gabriel appeared and announced unto Mary that she had been appointed or chosen to become the Mother of the Messiah,--of that child whose birth was heralded to the watching shepherds by strains of angelic music, as the celestial choir adored the Infant God. Humanly speaking, mankind had indeed reason to be alarmed; for, although the promise of a Redeemer had already been made in paradise to our first parents, yet the wickedness which prevailed over the whole earth was so terrible, that man might well tremble lest the Lord should declare it to be forfeited entirely. He might well apprehend that it was a conditional promise; the more so since four thousand years had already rolled down the stream of time, and the Redeemer did not appear, while man, through his own fault, sank deeper and deeper into the abyss of sin! The word of the angel to Mary relieved the faithful few from this harrowing anxiety.

"The Saviour cometh!" We are rescued from sin and hell! From this day the heart of the Redeemer will throb beneath the loving heart of the Virgin Mother, who will present His first petition for the salvation of mankind to the eternal Father.

Joyful message, which brought such happy tidings to us! To regain, through Christ, the precious gift of heavenly grace; to become again, through Him, children of God; to behold the gates of heaven open for us, and to have it in our power to enjoy the delights of that celestial paradise for an eternity which will never, never end,--Mary for our Mother, and the Lord for our portion forever!

It is true that our individual sins had opened still wider the infernal gates, and made deeper far the yawning pit of hell; but, through the merits of Christ, the hope of a blessed pardon was held out to all "men of good will."

The terrestrial paradise was lost, it is true; but in its place the kingdom of God on earth--the Church-- would henceforth become for man a garden of delights. The sorrow, the pain, the anguish of earthly trouble must still encompass us, no longer, however, as punishments for sin, but to serve as occasions of merit for the increase of our eternal joy and happiness. The concupiscence of the flesh, indeed, should still remain a constant cause of warfare; but, as a compensation, the measure of grace would be so multiplied as to enable the Christian to valiantly combat and bear away the victor's crown, and exalt his glory in heaven.The penalty of death had been pronounced upon man; but, through that dread decree, he can attain to the possession of a glory and delight which would never have been his had not Adam sinned in paradise.

In a word, infinitely more was conferred upon man through Christ, the Son of Mary, the heavenly Adam, than he lost through Adam, our first parent. We not only became again children of God, and gained once more the right to call Him Father; but we were permitted to call His Incarnate Son our Brother. For, since the Son of God assumed our flesh and blood from Mary, He is, therefore, true Man, even as from all eternity, in His own divine Person, He was and is God. Oh, what an important, what a welcome and consoling message!

All that can bring to the human heart the sweetest joy and solace is comprised in this message of the angel to Mary, as we will see if we take to heart all that has been said,--not merely hearing and believing it with a dead or dying faith, but also considering, and applying it to ourselves. In this, unfortunately, we are often wanting. Too many Christians are prone to celebrate the mysteries commemorated by the festivals of the Church only in their general relation, and not by reflecting what influence those articles of faith and divine truths should individually effect for us.

Yes, beloved in Christ, be ye who ye may, the message of salvation directed by Gabriel to Mary bears an individual relation to every one of you, even as if there had been but the one soul on earth for whose salvation the Saviour came. You were sunk deep in the abyss of woe, not only through the disobedience of Adam, but through innumerable personal sins, which threatened you with destruction for time and eternity. But the Saviour was conceived in the chaste womb of the Virgin Mary, and the lovely dawn of a blessed hope brightened the darkened world. This hope has a more secure foundation for you, since, without any merit of your own, you have been called to be members of the true Church.

Try, therefore, before you leave this holy place, to excite in your hearts all those affections which animated the heart of Mary on receiving the message of the angel. First, adore and thank God for having created you to His own image and likeness, and for having spared you when you were yet in a state of sin; but, above all, for having sent His only-begotten Son to redeem and save you. Renew your resolution to live as true children of God, as if Christ had been received into your hearts also as the pledge of a better life.

Thus you will become strong; and, although you may not have the happiness enjoyed by the Immaculate Virgin and Mother--of walking by the side of the Incarnate Son of God--you may, while living as her faithful children, enter one day into the communication of her glory and beatitude as children of God, also rescued through the incarnation of His eternal Son.--Amen!






"Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it done to me according to Thy word."--Luke i, 38.


The glorious festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from one point of view, refers expressly and solemnly to the message of the angel to Mary; for that message contains precisely what, properly speaking, renders life valuable for us. As the Church entones in the Easter preface on Holy Saturday: "Of what use would it be to have been born, had we not had the happiness to be redeemed?"

The work of the redemption and delivery of man was destined to be accomplished through the incarnation of the Son of God. This divine truth, the personal union of our human nature with the second person of the Blessed Trinity, is the most stupendous fact which the omnipotence of God ever effected or could effect. Though He might call into existence myriads of worlds, the splendor of which would far surpass this globe of ours, such a proof of His power would never appear so incomprehensible to us, as, that God, in the might of His immutable and eternal nature, united Himself, in the course of time, with a creature--a created nature--and entered this world in suffering, and all for us!

This article of faith also points to the great mystery of the freedom of the will, which, however, without the concurrence of God, can do nothing, entirely nothing, absolutely nothing in the order of salvation; and this co-operation is required by God to enable us to participate in the fruits of the redemption. This will be understood when I say that the will remains perfectly free in spite of its total dependence upon God; and, therefore, man must, of his own voluntary choice, embrace the service of God.

Even from the Blessed Virgin Mary, God required consent before the incarnation of His divine Son took place; therefore, If we wish to participate in the fruits of incarnation, we must, with the dispositions of her most obedient heart, confess before God: "Behold the servant of the Lord; be it done to me according to His word!"

O Mary, obtain for us today from Jesus, the blessed fruit of thy womb, the grace of perfect submission to the will of God! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

Christ was, upon one occasion, in company with Mary His mother, and other relatives according to the flesh, when His benign gaze rested suddenly upon them, and He gave utterance to the following words: "Whosoever doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven is my mother, my brother." By these words Christ instructs us that there is a spiritual union regarding the effects of nature and grace, and that it depends on the co-operation of our free will as to how far we victoriously complete the great affair of our salvation, and, according to this measure, obtain a higher or lower degree of glory in heaven. I apply this truth to the event we celebrate today, and say: "As the Lord sent an angel to Mary with the message of salvation, so God sends to every human soul that same message, through a call to the Holy Catholic Church, through the interior encouragement of grace, and through exterior circumstances; and, as He looked for the consent of Mary from the angel, so does He require our consent to follow the call of grace by a free decision of will." In this way, beloved in Christ, we shall spiritually receive Christ, as if He had been indeed born therein, and, by the continued co-operation of our will, He will grow in our hearts to the perfection of the life of grace. In this regard every thing depends on the sincerity, firmness, and fidelity of the will.

When the angel addressed Mary desiring her consent to become the mother of God--of the Son of God made man--it was not alone honor and glory which he offered her; for when that radiant being stood before her, she saw in spirit all the sacrifices, renunciations, mortifications, sufferings the most intense, and anguish the most bitter, which she would have to undergo in the days of her earthly pilgrimage, by becoming the mother of Jesus. She beheld the eve of the first Christmas, when she and her holy spouse, St. Joseph, two homeless wanderers, sought refuge in the stable at Bethlehem, because there was no room for them in the inn. The flight into Egypt, the weary, toilsome life which she, with her dear ones, led both there and at Nazareth, arose before her. And the vail of futurity was withdrawn that she might see the terror and grief which would overwhelm her soul when, later on, she would accompany her Son on His apostolic journeys through the land. All that the malice, obstinacy, and falsehood of His persecutors would cause that divine Son to suffer, she saw; and more than all, her spirit well nigh fainted within her when, in anticipation, her maternal heart was rent with the anguish of that dread day on which her Son would die. Ah! then indeed she felt the sharpness of that sword of grief which, according to holy Simeon, was to pierce her heart when she would receive the lacerated body of her beloved Son after He had expired upon the cross: and thus would be Mary the Queen of martyrs, the mother of Jesus, who is the King of martyrs!

The sacrifice which God required of her rose up in its might on that Feast of the Annunciation--in ages past and gone--and yet she hesitated not one moment in her submissive acceptance, but gave an immediate and decided consent, in those words which millions of devout Christians, her loving children, repeat whenever the Angelus bell peals forth at morning, noon, and eve: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word."

Let me make the application, and say that invitations are given to every human soul to enter into the bonds of fraternal relationship with Christ; but we must take special care to know how we can fulfill the holy will of God in the most perfect manner, that we may act ever as His own true children, and derive the richest fruits from the mystery we commemorate today. We must keep ever in view the important truth that if we would belong to Christ, imitate Him and secure our eternal salvation, we must live in a manner wholly different from the children of this world. We have not been placed upon earth to care for its perishable treasures, empty honors, and transitory joys. The watchword of our efforts to attain eternal life, whether we be wealthy or poor, blessed with health or afflicted with sickness, whether God in His goodness grants us "length of days," or early calls us to Himself, should be: "Thy will be done." "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to Thy word." Beloved Christians, if, in accordance with this declaration the most holy will of God should please to deprive you of worldly wealth, or of what is more precious still, your honor, that fair fame which is so justly dear to your hearts; if you should even be covered with ignominy, and treated as the last of your kind, your unfaltering reply, when the bitter cup is held to your quivering lips, should be: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word."

Finally, if God should demand that in the performance of your daily duties your health and strength give way, and that you languish a helpless sufferer for years; nay, if He require the sacrifice of life itself, and that under the most painful circumstances, you should be ready to say with willing heart: "Father, Thy will be done." "I am Thy servant, Thy handmaid; be it done to me according to Thy word."

O happy, thrice happy the Christian whose heart is thus disposed; for the Saviour has indeed chosen it for his abiding-place, and Jesus will lead him on to the perfection of spiritual life! But take care lest Satan assume the garb of an angel of light, and deceive you, as he so often does, with those over whom he fears he has lost his power, and whom he tries to delude by such diabolical arts.

Mary, the most prudent Virgin, as she is styled by the Church, evinced, indeed, an eminent degree of prudence by her manner of testing the truth of the angelic message. "How can this be?" she said, "for I know not man; "and not until the satisfactory reply of the celestial guide was given did she utter the words which saved us from sin and hell. She had every reason to believe that it was an angel from heaven who appeared before her, and yet she was alarmed, and distrusted his address. What an example for us!

Those by whom we are surrounded, to whom we go for counsel, are men, frail and sinful men, liable to err,--wearing an appearance of zeal; but perhaps inwardly, they are devouring wolves. Prudence! Oh, how essential it is to the fulfillment, not of our own will but of the most holy will of God. True prudence we need; for there is no greater bar to our sanctification, and to the salvation of the Church in general, than its counterfeit which prevails to such an extent; that worldly prudence which, in all that concerns the salvation of our souls, means ruin. To one who has only earthly motives in view many things will seem but folly, and yet they are the very acme of prudence.

Many Christians, through human respect, or a fear lest others should be unwilling to assist them, refrain from soliciting their aid in some work for the honor of God; for example, the propagation of His kingdom on earth, the Holy Church. The angel who delivered the message to Mary, might well teach us a lesson of faith; for the miracle which he announced to the holy Virgin shows us that nothing is impossible with God. O children of the Holy Catholic Church! in this, our nineteenth century, millions of wonders effected by God are placed before our spiritual vision; if, then, we are convinced that this or that is truly the holy will of God, our own weakness should never for a moment be a cause of dejection or discouragement. The more unworthy we are in ourselves, the more resplendent will be the glorification of God, if, in spite of all impediments, the work is accomplished by us, and accomplished well. Therefore, in every event of life our watchword should be those words of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so touching in their humility, so admirable in their submission to the divine will: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done unto me according to Thy divine will!"--Amen!






"And the angel said to her: Hail full of grace: the Lord is with thee."--Luke i, 28.

The beautiful festival which we celebrate today is called the Feast of the Annunciation; yet it might as fittingly be known as that of the Redemption of the World. The angel salutes Mary as the chosen Mother of the promised Messiah, who is now about to accomplish visibly on earth the work of the most merciful love of God for mankind, "in the fullness of time," as the prophets of old predicted it centuries before.

To understand clearly the signification of this feast we must earnestly consider the aim and end of the whole creation, and what relation the grace of redemption bears to the fallen human race. The aim and end of the creation, my dearest Christians, is the exterior glorification of God. The various relations of His infinite perfections toward creatures should serve as reflections of the different attributes of these infinite perfections.

We behold in the angelic world of heaven the infinite sanctity of God, while those fallen spirits who suffer in the abyss of hell reflect the infinite justice of their Sovereign Lord. The whole exterior visible world proclaims with many tongues His omnipotence, wisdom, benignity, and solicitude for the vast universe, and for every individual creature therein; but man was marked out as the object on which the infinite mercy of God was to celebrate His triumph. And this, indeed, was accomplished through Christ by His entrance into the world, by the welcome message which Gabriel on this blessed day brought to the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

This sublime truth affords a subject for the most consoling meditation if we but realize it in all its perfections. This, however, is the case with so few that I may venture to doubt whether one single child of the Church, among the many who listen to my words today, has ever considered, in its deepest meaning, the divine assurance and blessed hope with which this message is replete. Oh, how sweetly it whispers to our hearts that, by the redemption of the human race, the triumph of God's infinite mercy has been achieved!

O Mary, Mother of mercy, pray for us that the triumph of this loveliest of God's attributes may be celebrated in our hearts also! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

Is God merciful? Does He grant to the sinner a gracious pardon? To this none of us can give a final answer. Certainly He is, in the abstract, Infinite Mercy; and from the dark and drear abyss of chaos He has called the world into existence, and wishes to confer happiness upon those who will dwell therein. But should rational creatures, upon whom He has bestowed the precious gift of faith, dare to oppose His will and venture to transgress His divine commands, they have no right to expect forgiveness from an offended Majesty Who is under no obligation to evince His mercy to them. God is free. Of all the radiant angels who defied His wrath in heaven not one received forgiveness; nay, not one grace, which might have led them back, was vouchsafed to those rebel spirits--not one moment in which to repent and return to God; but when that daring thought of pride, which would fain have disturbed the peace of heaven, was consented to, the doom was sealed; the fiery sword of the sovereign justice flashed over the defiant host, and from the bliss of heaven they were hurled into the fathomless depths of hell. Therefore I say that, in regard to those sins which stain the hearts of the human race, we naturally ask the question: "Does God forgive our sins?" God alone can answer, and He has answered, and that more explicitly than is the case with any of His other divine attributes. Open the pages of the inspired volume, and read the assertions of Moses and the prophets,--those of the psalmist in the Old, and of Christ and His Apostles in the New Testament. In proof of this, I need only mention some of these solemn declarations of the Lord: "In that same hour when the sinner returns to Me his injustice shall no longer be remembered." So says the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel. And again: ''Though your sins be red as scarlet, they shall become whiter than snow." So has the Lord spoken by the prophet Isaias: "The wise man shall not glory in his wisdom." So we read in another place: "Nor the strong one in his strength, only that he acknowledge Me, who am merciful and forgiving towards the sinner." "As sure as I live," says God the Lord, "I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live." "Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever." This we read in the one hundred and thirty-fifth psalm, and, indeed, throughout all the psalms we trace similar eulogies of the mercy of God; while in regard to the other divine attributes no such frequent praise ascends on high. And surely every Christian, especially every child of the Church, has had ample reason, in the course of his life, to be reminded of this boundless mercy; chiefly, however, when he intended to seek reconciliation with God in the Sacrament of Penance.

But how few have ever realized and considered in their hearts that the message of the angel declared the triumph of the infinite mercy of God in the redemption of man! To understand this clearly we must think well on the following questions, and consider the answers in every light. The first question is, "Who pardons?" The second, " Who is pardoned?" The third, "What is pardoned?" and the fourth, "How is it pardoned?" To assign to the principal thought the most prominent place, I will say, that God wished to confer the gracious boon of pardon, but man seemed only anxious to thrust back the munificent bounty of the divine hand. Nevertheless, infinite mercy triumphed, and changed the poisonous stream of sin to a health-giving fountain, wherein the sinner may find balm for the most deadly wounds of the soul. Deny me not your closest attention to every word I may utter. Even as the sun, in his onward course, shines ever with more resplendent brilliancy until he has reached the zenith of his glory, so will you, if you follow the course of my remarks, obtain at their close a clear and luminous insight into what I wish to prove.

Now, then, the first question: "Who pardons?" God, the offended One; God, the infinite Majesty, Who has no need of us, whom He called into existence from nothing.

Second Question: "Whom does he pardon?" Man, the lowest of all the rational creatures, who offends again and again. From each of the nine celestial choirs some angels fell; yes, even Cherubim and Seraphim, and Lucifer himself, the brightest of all, was buried in darkness and despair. Not one of them found mercy, and yet they sinned but once, and that in thought.

Third Question: What does God pardon? Every sin, no matter how great; to every sinner who responds to the call of grace, and returning with heartfelt sorrow to the path of right, fulfills the conditions necessary for reconciliation with Him. Christians, consider for a moment all that is implied in the words: Every sin. There have lived on earth men who have outraged Christ in His own divine person, and this not upon Good Friday only, but over and over again in the long period of nineteen centuries. There have been wretches, so lost to every feeling of good, that they threw the Most Holy Sacrament on the ground, and trampling upon it with their unholy feet, outraged this precious legacy of Christ. Yet had they turned to God with truly repentant hearts, they would have found a loving welcome from Him Whom they had so deeply offended. No matter, then, how grievous or how numerous the sins, it is an article of faith that God is always ready to forgive the contrite sinner who has recourse to the Sacrament of Penance; for has He not said: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven?" "What sins ?" says St. Bernard. "No matter what! And what sinners?" The Lord makes no exceptions. But even that does not yet prove the triumph of the infinite mercy of God.

Listen to the fourth question and its answer: "How does God pardon?" God longed to forgive, but man arrayed himself against that infinite goodness, so that the offended One must make the advances, since, of himself, the offender can do nothing meritorious for eternal life. Infinite praise to infinite mercy! So full of love and compassion was the Lord that He took the first step towards rescuing us from everlasting woe. "When we were His enemies He loved us, and drew us mercifully to Himself," as St. John assures us. But man did not respond. Bethlehem rejects Him, the symbolical meaning of which is this: In consequence of original sin every human being, from the moment of its conception, bears a heart fast closed against the Lord.

But, my dearest Christians, man's ingratitude did not stop there; for St. Paul says: "We seized Him, dragged Him out of the city, and nailed Him to the cross," that is, by our sins; for He, the Lamb of God, took upon Himself all the sins of the world; and the avenging arm of the justice of His heavenly Father was stayed. He sweats blood, He is scourged, crowned with thorns, spit upon, and treated in the most insulting manner; His sacred shoulders shrink from the weight of the cross, as amid the jeers and cries of the cruel mob His faltering steps go on to Calvary; He bends beneath the heavy load--He falls; a second, yes, even a third time, He sinks to the ground, and the avenging justice of His eternal Father is stayed; He is trampled under foot, they lay violent hands upon Him, and nail Him to the cross and as it is raised aloft, new torture is inflicted on the suffering Lamb of God, His wounds are opened afresh, until all that is human in Him can scarcely bear the pain. The angelic hosts are hovering near, and look with the tenderest compassion on the Son of God made man. They contemplate with deepest pity the awful sufferings by which the redemption of the human race is won. "O children of Adam!" they fain would cry--"for the sinful thought of a single moment the justice of God refused to spare our companions, and hurled them to the black abyss of a hell enkindled by the avenging breath of an outraged Deity; what then will become of you?"

Lucifer, surrounded by the infernal hosts, is at the foot of the cross. In their diabolical joy, what may have been their thoughts? Probably these:

"If we, for one single offense, were cast out of heaven, and doomed to burn forever in hell; if, for a rebellious thought, we have been punished by neverending torments, what will be the torture of that hell prepared for you, O recreant children of men?" Angels and devils look upon Jesus and are silent, awaiting the punishment which will surely be adjudged to the human race, and at last the livid lips of the Crucified One part to speak. Then do angels and demons expect to hear the words: "Father, I came to save, not only the just, but sinners, yet they rejected my bounty; they would not be saved, and now I give them over to you--to your infinite justice--punish them as you will." But, no! such feelings had no place in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He prays for His enemies. He cries aloud: "Father, forgive!" Ah, then, what a grand triumphant cry breaks forth from the whole celestial choir, as the vail which had until now concealed the greatness of God's mercy was removed, and they beheld it in all its infinity! When God created the visible world, holy Job tells us that the angels rejoiced at the result of His goodness, power, wisdom, and benignity; joyous was also the "Gloria" which floated over the midnight air when Christ was born; but beyond all these was the hymn of praise which the angels entoned in gratitude for God's enduring mercy.

But Lucifer, and his fallen band retreat, and, frantic with rage and despair, bury themselves in the lowest depths of hell.

Then Jesus prays: "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken Me?" He, as it were, suffers the neverending pain which should be endured by every sinner, instead of by Him, the innocent Lamb of God. "I thirst." Jesus offers Himself for the salvation of every soul that has been, or ever will be born, until the end of time. He longs for it. He thirsts for it upon the gibbet of the cross. "It is consummated! Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit." The soul is about to leave that sacred body, the face assumes the livid hue of death; a soldier rushes up the mountain side and thrusts his spear into the Sacred Heart of Jesus; it opens, and, under the symbol of blood and water, rises from this precious wound the Holy Catholic Church. Even as from the side of the sleeping Adam, Eve came forth, so, from the heart of the heavenly Adam, as he fell asleep in death, there came forth this one true Church.

St. Peter compares her to the saving Ark. The very summits of the loftiest mountains were hidden beneath the surging waters of the deluge; from which we are to understand that, while God is willing to pardon man, He permits him to fall into an abyss of sin, such as no devil was ever guilty of. Lucifer, in his arrogant pride, said: "I will make myself like unto the Most High;" but St. Peter says in his first discourse on Pentecost: "But the Author of life you killed." Deicide--attempted Deicide--is the crime of the human race against God. Oh, what a terrible crime! Yet, children of Adam, you still may hope. St. Paul says that Christ, in dying upon the cross, has destroyed sin through sin; which means that this atrocious crime, deicide, parricide, and fratricide combined, of which all sinners have been guilty--became for us, through God's infinite mercy, the very source of Pardon! This is the infinite Triumph of the Divine Mercy.

"But Thou, O Lord, what dost Thou require from us that we may participate in the fruits of redemption? Is it not meet that we should suffer even as you have suffered; for "if such things be done in the green wood, what shall be done in the dry?" Listen to the sweet and loving reply from the Sacred Heart of Jesus: "Nothing!"--" Gratis redempti estis!" "Nothing-- you are redeemed." So it is. And if one of the murderers of our Lord had fallen at the feet of St. Peter on Pentecost and asked the prince of the Apostles: "What penalty must I suffer for that horrible crime?" the answer would have been: "No penalty! Offer to your crucified Lord the sorrow of a truly contrite heart." "I baptize thee; ego te baptizo;" and in the same moment the soul of that sinner would have been pure and bright as the fairest angel of heaven, through the merits of Christ the Saviour. And even if, later on, that ungrateful man should crucify anew, in his forgetful heart, the Son of God, even then I say he need not despair.

And upon what conditions may the baptized sinner hope for pardon? The very same which earthly justice demands and requires to have a criminal delivered up to the law,-- Confession. This self-accusation, joined to an act of sincere contrition, before the priest, as the representative of God, can rescue even the most abandoned sinners. This, beloved in Christ, is the triumph of the infinite mercy of God. The message which the Angel, on this auspicious day, brought to the Blessed Virgin Mary, reminds us of this glorious triumph, and three times a day does the Church recall it to our minds, with the wish that this threefold remembrance at morn, at noon, at eventide, should instill into our hearts a tender reverence and devotion for the great mystery which is commemorated by the feast we celebrate today. And with this devotion will spring up a feeling of the most intense gratitude to the Triune God, the Father who created us, the Son who redeemed us, and the Holy Ghost who sanctified us. Amen!
 

Prayer on the Feast of the Annunciation

O God, Who wast pleased that the eternal Word, according to the declaration of the angel, should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Give to our humble petitions; and grant that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


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Prayer, O Beata Virgo.

Mary, Virgin ever blessed! who can worthily praise thee or give thanks to thee, who, by that wondrous assent of thy will, didst rescue a fallen world? What honours can the weakness of our human nature pay to thee, which by thy intervention alone has found the way to restoration? Accept, then, such poor thanks as we crave here to offer, though they are unequal to thy merits; and, receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offences. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the medicine of our reconciliation. Through thee may those sins become pardonable the release from which through thee we ask of God, and that be granted which we demand with confidence.

Accept what we offer, grant us what we seek, spare us what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the forgiveness of our faults, and in thee, most blessed Virgin, is the hope of our reward. Holy Mary, succour the wretched, help the faint-hearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for the people, shield the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God, let all feel thy aid who keep thy holy commemoration. Be thou at hand, ready to aid our prayers, when we pray; and bring back to us the answers we desire. Make it thy care to intercede ever for the people of God thou who, blessed of God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.

(Indulgence 50 days)



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Litany of the 7 Earthly and 7 Heavenly Joys
of the Holy Mother of God


Antiphon: From the beginning and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before Him. Then the Creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and He that made me rested in my tabernacle.
V. In the multitude of the elect she shall have praise, and among the blessed she shall be Blessed.

R. My soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. All generations shall call me Blessed.

Mary, Mother of God, tell us of thy joy.
Mary Immaculate, teach us perfect joy.


Through thy joyous conception of Jesus by the Holy Ghost at the Incarnation,
Teach us perfect joy. *


Through thy joyous carrying of Jesus in the Visitation to Elizabeth, *

Through thy joyous bringing forth into the world of Jesus, God and Man, *

Through thy joyous Epiphany of Jesus at the adoration of the Magi, *

Through thy joyous finding of Jesus preaching in the temple, *

Through thy joyous beholding of Jesus after His Resurrection, *

Through thy joyous Assumption by Jesus into Heaven, and thy Coronation as Queen of the Universe, *


V. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive.
R. O Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.


Because in Heaven the Most Holy Trinity honors thee above all other creatures,
Pray that we may rejoice in God our Saviour. **


Because thy virginity has placed thee above all angels and saints, **

Because the light of thy glory illuminates the heavens, **

Because the blessed in Heaven worship thee as truly the Mother of God, **

Because thy Son grants thee whatever thou as our mediatrix dost ask of Him. **

Because of the joyous honors prepared in Heaven for thy servants, **

Because thy accidental glory goes on increasing to the end of time, **


Pray for us, O joyous Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

St. Francis our Seraphic Father, who didst so wondrously interpret Perfect Joy, permit us to say thy prayer to our Blessed Mother: Holy Virgin Mary, there is none like unto thee among women. Thou art the daughter and handmaid of the most high King, the Heavenly Father; thou art the Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ; thou art the spouse of the Holy Ghost. Pray for us in union with St. Michael and all the Angels of heaven and all the Saints to thy most holy, beloved Son, our Lord and Master. Amen.




Novena for the Annunciation

1. With wonder I revere thee, holiest Virgin Mary, for of all God's creatures thou wast humblest on the very day of the Annunciation, when God himself exalted thee to the sublimest dignity of his own Mother. O mightiest Virgin, make me, wretched sinner that I am, know the depths of my own nothingness, and at once, with all my heart, humble myself beneath the feet of all.

Ave Maria.


2. When, Mary, holiest Virgin, Gabriel the archangel hailed thee in thy Annunciation, thou wast raised by God above all angel choirs; yet didst thou then confess thyself the handmaid of the Lord (Ecce ancilla Domini.) O Mary, obtain for me true humility and angelic purity, that I may so live on earth as ever to be worthy of the blessings of my God.

Ave Maria.


3. With thee I rejoice, O Virgin ever blest, because by the sole fiat uttered by thee so lowly, thou didst draw down from the bosom of the Eternal Father the Divine Word into thine own pure bosom. O draw, then, my heart to God; and with God draw grace into my heart, that I may ever bless thy Fiat, and with devotion cry, O mighty Fiat! O Fiat efficacious! O Fiat to be venerated above all Fiats!

Ave Maria.


4. Mary, mighty Virgin, thou, on thy Annunciation, wast found by Gabriel the archangel on thy watch, quick to do God's will and correspond with the desires of the august Trinity for man's redemption, giving thy consent in order to redeem the world. Let me, whatever happens, good or ill, turn ever to my God, and with resignation say, Fiat, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (Be it unto me according to thy word.)

Ave Maria.


5. I see that thy obedience, holiest Mary, wrought so close a bond between thy God and thee, that all creation never shall know again union so fair and perfect. (Magis Deo conjungi, nisi fieret Deus, non potuit"--B. Albert Magnus.) My soul within me faints to see how sin hath severed me from God. Help me, then, gentle Mother, with true heart to do fit penance for my sins, that thy own loving Jesus may yet once more live in me and I in him.

Ave Maria.


6. Beholding, holiest Mary, how by reason of thy modesty thou wast troubled when Gabriel the archangel stood before thee in thy house, I also when I come before thee am troubled for my monstrous pride; wherefore do thou, in thy incomparable humility, "which brought forth God for men, reopened paradise, and let the captive souls go free from hell beneath" (Quae Deum hominibus peperit, paradisum aperuit et animas ab inferno liberavit--St. Augus., Serm. de Sanct.), draw me, I pray thee out of the deep pit wherein my sins have cast me, enabling me to save my soul.

Ave Maria.


7. Though my tongue is unhallowed, yet, purest Virgin, I am bold to hail thee each hour of the day: "Hail, hail, Mary, full of grace"(Ave, ave, gratia plena.) From my heart I pray thee, replenish my soul with some little of that mighty grace wherewith the Holy Spirit overshadowed thee, and filled thee to overflowing.

Ave Maria.


8. I believe, holiest Mary, that mighty God, Who was ever with thee, from thy conception (Dominus tecum), is, by His Incarnation in thy purest womb, made still more closely one with thee; make it thy care, I pray thee, that I may be with that same dear Lord Jesus, ever one heart and soul by means of sanctifying grace.

Ave Maria.


9. O holiest Mary, shed over my heart and soul all heavenly benedictions, as thou thyself wast ever blest of God among all women (benedicta tu in mulieribus); for I have this sure hope, that if, dear Mother, thou shalt bless me while I live, then when I die I shall be blessed of God in the everlasting glory of heaven.

Ave Maria.


Then the Litanies, &c.

V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Let us Pray

O God who, by the message of an angel, didst will that thy Divine Word shouldst take flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant unto us thy suppliants, that we, who believe her to be verily the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with thee. Through, &c.




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The Feast Day of the Annunciation
Rev. Prosper Gueranger, 1870

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 (St. John. i. 14). We must spend it in joy. Whilst 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 (3 Ibid. iii. 16.); 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 honour 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 fulfilment 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 co-operate, 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, tells us, that the great Mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March (St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. iv. cap. v.). 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 (Adv. Haereses. Lib. v. cap. xix).

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 for ever 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 povier of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be bom 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 honoured 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, solemnise 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 ceased, and vested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a Mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and He Himself overthrew the gates of the enemies (Judges, v. 7, 8.). 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 (Judith, xiii. 17, 18; xvi. 7.).


FIRST VESPERS


When the Annunciation falls on any other day than Monday, the First Vespers of this Feast are sung before mid-day, according to the rule prescribed for Fast-days of Lent: but when it falls on a Monday, this Office is celebrated at the ordinary time of Vespers, and only a commemoration is made of the Sunday by the Magnificat Antiphon and the Prayer.

The Office of First Vespers is always the commencement of a Feast. The Antiphons of the Vespers, at which we are going to assist, are taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, where the Evangelist reveals to us the sublime interview between the Angel and the Virgin. The Psalms are those which tradition has consecrated to the celebration of Mary's glories.


Ant. The Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin, espoused to Joseph.



PSALM 109.


The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool. The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies. With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot thee. The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. The Lord at thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.

He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of the many. He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.


Ant. The Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin, espoused to Joseph.

Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.




PSALM 112


Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth now and for ever. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise. The Lord is high above all nations; and his glory above the heavens. Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high:

And looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth? Raising up the needy from the earth, and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill: That he may place him with princes, with the princes of his people. Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.

Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.




PSALM 121


I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord. Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together. For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord. Because their seats have sat in judgment, seats upon the house of David.

Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them that love thee. Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers. For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, I spoke peace of thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.


Ant. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.

Ant. And the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, and He shall reign for ever.




PSALM 126.

Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. It is vain for you to rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his beloved, Behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb. As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken. Blessed is the man that hath filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.


Ant. And the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, and He shall reign for ever.

Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.




PSALM 147.


Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion. Because he hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates, he hath blessed thy children within thee. Who hath placed peace in thy borders: and filleth thee with the fat of corn. Who sendeth forth his speech to the earth: his word runneth swiftly.

Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes. He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold? He shall send out his word, and shall melt them: his wind shall blow, and the waters shall run. Who declareth his word to Jacob: his justices and his judgments to Israel. He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.


Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.



Capitulum (Is. VII.)


Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that He may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.


HYMN


Hail, Star of the Sea! Blessed Mother of God, yet ever a Virgin! O happy gate of heaven!

Thou that didst receive the Ave from Gabriel's lips, confirm us in peace, and so let Eva be changed into an Ave of blessing for us.

Loose the sinner's chains, bring light to the blind, drive from us our evils, and ask all good things for us.

Show thyself a Mother, and offer our prayers to Him, Who would be born of thee, when born for us.

O incomparable Virgin, and meekest of the meek, obtain us the forgiveness of our sins, and make us meek and chaste.

Obtain us purity of life, and a safe pilgrimage; that we may be united with thee in the blissful vision of Jesus.

Praise be to God the Father, and to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Ghost: to the Three one self-same praise. Amen.


V. Hail, Mary, full of grace.
R. The Lord is with thee.


Antiphon Of The Magnificat.


The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, O Mary, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.

Let us pray:


O God, Who wast pleased that Thy Word, when the Angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Prayer:

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 fulfilment 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 (Philipp. ii. 7.), and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh! Who comest not to judge, but to save (St. John, xii. 47.)! 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 thy 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 honour; 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 InfantGod, our Saviour: 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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Prayer of the Most Holy Virgin Mother
of the Incarnate Word


Most holy Virgin, Mother of the incarnate Word, A treasure house of grace, and refuge of us wretched sinners, with lively faith we have recourse to thy motherly love, and ask of thee the grace of ever doing God's will and thine. In thy most holy hands we place our hearts, and of thee we ask health of body and soul; and, as we have the sure hope that thou, our most loving Mother, wilt hear us, we say to thee with lively faith:
Hail Mary, three times.


Let us pray:


Defend, we beseech thee, O Lord! through the intercession of the blessed Mary, ever virgin, Thy servants from all infirmity; and mercifully deign to guard them, prostrate in the sincerity of their hearts before Thee, against the snares of the enemy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Indulgence of 100 days, once a day. Leo XII, Aug. n, 1824.)



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Mary, Mother of God and Mother of mercy, pray for us and for the departed.
(Indulgence of 100 days, once a day. Leo XIII, Dec. 15, 1883)



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One Ave and Prayer, O Domina Mea! for Victory in Temptations, especially those against Chastity.

O My Queen! my Mother! I give thee all myself, and, to show my devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, ears, mouth, heart, my entire self. Wherefore, O loving Mother, as I am thy own, keep me, defend me, as thy property and possession.

(Indulgence 100 days--Pius IX)



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Prayer of St Alphonsus to be said before a representation of Our Lady.

Most holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin and Mother, to thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the refuge of sinners, I, who am the most miserable of all, have recourse today. I adore thee, O great Queen, and I thank thee for the many favours thou hast done me up to now, especially for having preserved me from hell, which I have so often deserved. I love thee, most dear Lady; and by the love I bear thee I promise to desire ever to serve thee and to do all I can to make thee loved by others. I place all my hopes in thee, all my salvation. Accept me for thy servant and shelter me under thy mantle, O thou Mother of mercy. And since thou art so powerful with God, free me from all temptations, or obtain for me strength to overcome them as long as I live. Of thee I ask true love of Jesus Christ. Through thee I hope to die a good death. O Mother, by the love thou bearest to God, I pray thee to help me always, but specially in the last moment of my life. Do not leave me until thou seest me safe in Heaven, there to bless thee and sing thy mercies for all eternity. This is my hope. Amen.

(Indulgence 300 days)



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Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Against Heresy

O Powerful Virgin, who alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world, deliver the Christian world from the snares of the devil, and have compassion on the souls deceived by diabolical cunning, that laying aside all heretical guilt, the hearts of the erring may be converted and return to the unity of the Catholic Faith, through thy intercession with our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
(100 Days, Leo XIII, December 19, 1885)



Sermons of Fr. Weninger for the Annunciation