Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

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Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

This feast, which in recent times has been kept not only throughout the whole of Spain, but also in many other parts of the Catholic world, owes its origin to the bishops of the 10th Council of Toledo, in 656. These prelates thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation on the 25th of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of Our Lord, so that it is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason. They therefore decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn Feast with an octave, in honor of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of Our Lord’s Nativity. In the course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome and of the whole world, which solemnize the 25th of March as the day of Our Lady’s Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the Feast of the 18th of December, that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, to celebrate the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the Holy Mother of God during the days immediately preceding Her giving Him birth. A new Feast was instituted, under the name of “the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin’s Delivery.”

This Feast, which sometimes goes under the name of Our Lady of O, or the Feast of O, on account of the great antiphons which are sung during these days, and, in a special manner, of that which begins O Virgo virginum (which is still used in the Vespers of the Expectation—seebelow, together with the O Adonai, the antiphon of the Advent Office), was kept with great devotion in Spain. A High Mass was sung at a very early hour each morning during the octave, at which all who were with child, whether rich or poor, considered it a duty to assist, that they might thus honor Our Lady’s Maternity, and beg Her blessing upon themselves. It is no wonder that the Holy See approved of this pious practice being introduced into almost every other country. We find that the Church of Milan, Whose Advent fast lasted 40 days, long before Rome conceded this Feast to the various dioceses of Christendom, celebrated the Office of Our Lady’s Annunciation on the sixth and last Sunday of Advent, and called the whole week following the Hebdomada de Exceptato (for thus the popular expression had corrupted the word Expectato). But it, too, has given way to the Feast of Our Lady’s Expectation, which the Church has established and sanctioned as a means of exciting the attention of the faithful during these last days of Advent.

Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire Thou hadst to see Him, Who had been concealed for nine months in Thy chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the Heavenly Father, Who is also Thine; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will. Yes, dearest Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy Thy desires and ours. Make us redouble our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by Thy powerful prayers for us, that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.

O Virgin of virgins! How shall this be? For never was there one like Thee, nor will there ever be. Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at Me? What you behold is a divine mystery.

Saint Gatian

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Saint Gatian

First Bishop of Tours
(† First Century)

Saint Gatian, a disciple of the Apostles and the first bishop of Tours, was sent to that city at the same time as Saint Denys to Paris, Saint Trophimus to Arles, Saint Martial to Limoges, Saint Saturninus to Toulouse, Saint Sergius Paulus to Narbonne, and Saint Austremoine into Auvergne. The Gauls in that region were addicted to the worship of their ancient idols, to which they had added the divinities of Rome. He found them enslaved to their various superstitions, and began to teach them the vanity of idols and the impossibility of a plurality of gods. After dispersing the false ideas and fears they had conceived concerning the gods of the empire, he presented to them the faith of the Gospel and the true God. He showed them the necessity of the Redemption and spoke of the Second Coming of the Saviour as Judge, when He will reward the virtue of those who have done good, and exile evildoers to a lamentable eternity.

The Saint was often interrupted in his instructions by harassers, and when denounced to the magistrates, was mistreated and threatened with death; but no contradictions or sufferings were able to discourage or daunt this apostle. By his perseverance he gained several to Christ. He left the city, however, and established a sort of headquarters in a rude grotto surrounded by thorn bushes. There he celebrated the divine mysteries. His splendid virtues, until then unknown to this untaught populace, won many to recognition of the truth of the religion he taught. He traveled in the area, accompanied by his faithful disciples, to preach and to exercise mercy. There were, it seems, no illnesses which he did not cure, nor demons which he did not drive away with the sign of the Cross. The pagan altars began to be abandoned, and it was permitted to establish small oratories where the faithful could assemble. The people learned to sing the praises of the true God, and clerics were formed to officiate. Saint Gatian established outside the city, a cemetery for the burial of Christians.

The holy bishop Gatian died at an advanced age, having seen Our Lord Jesus Christ come to him during his last illness to awake him from sleep and give him Holy Communion in Viaticum; he died seven days later. The Cathedral of Tours still possesses a few fragments of his relics, which Saint Martin had placed in that principal church, but which wars and persecutions scattered and destroyed in large part.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14

St. Begga

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St. Begga, Widow and Abbess

THIS saint was daughter of Pepin of Landen, eldest sister to St. Gertrude of Nivelle, and married Ansegise, son to St. Arnoul, who was some time mayor of the palace, and afterwards bishop of Metz. Her husband being killed in hunting, she dedicated herself to a penitential state of retirement, and, after performing a pilgrimage to Rome, built seven chapels at Anden on the Meuse, in imitation of the seven principal churches at Rome. 1
There she also founded a great nunnery in imitation of that which her sister governed at Nivelle, 1 from which she was furnished with a little colony who laid the foundation of this monastery, and lived under her direction. Many holy virgins were trained up by them in the perfect practice of piety. The rich monastery of Anden was afterwards converted into a collegiate church of thirty-two canonesses of noble families, with ten canons to officiate at the altar. It is situate in the forest of Ardenne, in the diocess of Namur. St. Begga departed to our Lord in the year 698, and is named in the Roman Martyrology. See Miræus, in Fastis Belgicis, and G. Ryckel, Vita S. Beggæ. Beguinarum et Beguardorum Fundatricis. Lovani, 1631, in 4to. 2

Note 1. Many ascribe to St. Begga the institution of the Beguines, very numerous at Mechlin, Ghent, and other places in Brabant, the Flemish Flanders, and some neighbouring provinces of the Low Countries. They devote themselves to the divine service under simple vows of chastity, and certain pious rules, which only oblige so long as they remain in that state. But Ægidius Aureæ Vallis, and other historians inform us, that the Beguines were instituted by Lambert le Begue or Balbus, a pious priest of Liege, in 1170, and derived from him their name. See Ægidius Aureæ Vallis, in Gestis Episcoporum Leodiens. Cheapville, t. 2, p. 126. Miræus in Chron. Cisterc. p. 199. Sanderus et Foppens in Bibl. Belg. t. 2, p 796. Also, Disquisitio Historica de Origine Beghinarum, Autore P. Coens. Leodii, 1629: and Lettre sur l’Origine et Progrès des Béguines. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XII: December.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.