The Festival of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Leonard Goffine, 1871
This festival is thus named, because the Church on this day celebrates the commemoration of the day ever memorable in the Book of Life, upon which the holy, angelically pure Virgin Mary received the glorious announcement, that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Redeemer. The Church in the Introit exclaims: All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the king: her neighbors shall be brought to thee in joy and gladness. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my words to the king. Glory be to the Father, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. 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.
GOSPEL. (Luke i. 26 – 38.) At That Time: The angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: 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. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.
Why does the Evangelist so minutely detail the announcement of the Incarnation?
That we may clearly take into our thoughts, believe in, and meditate upon the mystery of the Incarnation, upon which depends our eternal salvation.
Why was an angel sent to Mary?
To announce to her, that it was God’s will, that His divine Son, in order to redeem the human race by His sufferings and death, should take human nature from her, and because from the human race, redeemed by Christ, the number of angels was to be replaced.
Was the Incarnation necessary for our redemption?
Yes; for, as God, Christ could not suffer, and without an infinitely meritorious suffering which no one but God could give, sufficient satisfaction could not have been rendered, and, therefore, God the Son must humble Himself before God and suffer, which could only be by His becoming incarnate. This shows the enormity of sin, for which no man however pure, no, not even an angel, but only a God-Man could atone.
Why did God require Mary’s consent for the Incarnation of His Son?
To show us that God forces no one to good, much less to evil; that we might learn, that even to good works our good intention and assent are necessary, if we wish them to be meritorious; in order, as St. Bede says, that Mary because of her consent should have imparted to her all, even the highest graces, which all creatures as well as all angels and men have ever by their thoughts, words, and deeds deserved.
Why was Mary troubled at the angel’s message? Partly from humility, partly from modesty. She was so humble, that she regarded herself as the least of all creatures, and could not comprehend, how such an honor could be hers. She was so modest, and so loved virginal purity, that the presence of the angel and his message troubled her. From this all maidens should see, that their loveliest adornments and most necessary virtues are modesty, and humility, and love of purity, which Mary so valued, that she would not lose them even to become Mother of God.
What is meant by the throne of David?
The kingdom of Christ, of which David’s government was a representation. (Ps. cxxxi.)
Why is David called the father of Christ?
Because Christ’s Mother, Mary, descended from the house of David, and, therefore, David according to nature was the forefather of Christ.
Who was the real father of Christ?
Properly to answer this, we must observe that in Christ there are two natures, the divine and the human. In His human nature He had indeed a mother, but no father, for Joseph was only His fosterfather; in His divine nature He had no mother, but only a father, the Heavenly Father.
How, then, was Christ conceived? By the overshadowing and power of the Holy Ghost, who by His divine omnipotence effected the conception of Him whom Mary was to bring forth.
How should we be encouraged by the words: No word shall be impossible with God?
We should be encouraged by them to a great confidence in God, who can readily help us in the most difficult circumstances, even when help seems impossible, and who will also help us, if it is beneficial for us, and we ask Him. These words moreover admonish us to a firm faith which cannot be shaken by the most incomprehensible mystery in matters of faith.
Why does Mary call herself the handmaid of the Lard?
From humility, which next to her maidenly modesty was her most remarkable virtue, which causes St. Bernard to say: “By her purity she pleased God, and by her humility she received Him.”
EXPLANATION OF THE “HAIL MARY”
OR THE ANGELIC SALUTATION
Why is the “Hail Mary” called the Angelic Salutation?
Because it commences with the words addressed to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, when he brought her the message, that she was to be the Mother of God.
In what does the Hail Mary consist?
Of the words of the Angel Gabriel; of St. Elisabeth’s salutation, when she was visited by Mary; of words, added by the Catholic Church.
What words did the angel say to Mary?
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women!
What is meant by these words?
The word Hail, that is, Salutation to thee! Peace with thee! or, Joy to thee! also expresses the reverence which the angel had for the blessed Virgin, and which we should have for her. Mary was the maiden’s name, great and mysterious, for Mary means Virgin. Christ is “Our Lord”, Mary “Our Virgin”. Mary means also “the enlightened”, and Christ is the sun of justice, Mary is beautiful as the moon, she has her radiance from the sun, and is a light for us poor sinners. Mary means again “Star of the Sea”, and she it is who shines for us voyagers on the stormy ocean of life to the heavenly fatherland. The words: full of grace, show us that God had given more grace to her than to all men and angels together. As there may be many vessels filled with a precious cordial, but the largest vessel contains the greatest quantity, so there are many saints who are full of grace, but Mary has more grace than any. We should for this reason always pray with confidence to her to obtain for us, by her powerful intercession, those graces which are most necessary for our salvation. By the words: the Lord is with thee, the angel intended to express that the Lord was with this maiden in every way, that He is with His pure creatures, not only in His reality, presence, and omnipotence as with all men, not only in His grace as with the just, but with the greatest and most extraordinary grace, love, and familiarity. St. Augustine observes: “The angel wished to say: The Lord is with thee more than with me; the Lord is with thee, so that He may be in thy heart, in thy body, may fill thy spirit, fill thy flesh.” “Could God raise her higher!” St. Bernard here exclaims. Ah, that the Lord might be with us also, and Mary by her intercession obtain graces for us! Finally, the words: Blessed art thou amongst women, mean: thou art the most blessed, the happiest of women, for thou of all thy sex art chosen to be the Mother of God, at the same time Mother and Maid. Maid and Mother! How much is contained in the salutation which one of the highest spirits surrounding the throne of God, addressed to Mary, and how much it requires us to love and daily salute Mary, our most tender Mother!
What are the words used by St. Elisabeth, and what is their signification?
Elisabeth repeated the angel’s words: Blessed art thou amongst women, adding “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” which signified, that Jesus should be praised, because through Him God would bestow all spiritual and heavenly blessings upon us.
Which are the words added by the Church? Those which follow the words: “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” explaining them: Jesus, by which she wishes us to see, that we are to offer this prayer to God in the name of Christ; and then the invocation to Mary: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
What do these words mean?
When we say Holy Mary, we mean to express, that Mary is God’s holy and wonderful work, Daughter of the Heavenly Father, Mother of the Son, and Bride of the Holy Ghost, and has all her sanctity, beauty, and veneration from the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ. The glorious title of Mother of God is given her, because Mary bore not an ordinary man, but Jesus Christ who is both God and Man. Therefore from her was born the Son of God, the incarnate God, not a man who appeared like God, but God in flesh. She is, then, really and truly the Mother of God, our Lord’s Mother. The fathers who had assembled in the holy Council of Chalcedon, to refute the heresy of Nestorius, who sought to deprive Mary of the title of Mother of God, called her “Holy Mary, Mother of God: the Virgin Mary is the Mother of God!” As of herself Mary is not holy, and cannot of herself help us, we add: pray for us, by which we ask for her powerful intercession; and conscious of our poverty and sinfulness, call ourselves poor sinners, whose only mediator is Christ, it is true, but who turn to Mary, the Mother of mercy, because they feel themselves too unworthy to pray to Christ Himself, and, therefore, entreat this loving mother to obtain for them amendment of life, remission of sin, consolation in affliction, remedy in sickness, assistance in need, increase of grace, preservation, perseverance, and the crown; and may Mary pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Now, while the divine mercy is given us, and especially in the hour of death, when the weapons for battle against the enemy fall from our hands, and the evil one tempts us all the more violently, because he knows that his time is short (Apoc. xii. 12.), in that hour on which depends our eternal welfare or grief. By the one word Amen we affirm, that we remain true venerators of the Virgin Mother of God, and at all time expect grace from God through her intercession. “Yes,” says St. Bernard, “let us as sincerely, heartily, and confidently venerate Mary as we can, for such is His will who desired, that we should have all (salvation and redemption in Christ) through Mary.” The Son will assuredly hear the Mother, and the Father the Son. Let us, then, strive to rise by her to Him who by her came down to us!
Through thee, O blessed Discoverer of grace! Mother of life! Mother of salvation! we have access to the Son, who accepts us from thee, who was given us by thee–to Jesus Christ, eternally blessed.
ON THE “ANGELUS DOMINI, THE ANGEL OF THE LORD.
Who introduced the angelic salutation into the Catholic Church?
Pope Urban II, who at the Council of Clermont, France, in 1095, ordered that the bells be rung every day in the morning, at noon, and night, and that at each time be repeated the angelic salutation. His special intention was to obtain Mary’s protection for the crusades. The crusades which had for their object the rescuing of the holy Sepulchre from the hands of the infidels, took place in the eleventh century. These wars are now ended, but the life of the whole Church, of every Christian, is a crusade against sin and temptation. We always need Mary’s protection; and, therefore, the custom of repeating the salutation is still retained in the Church. Formerly at the ringing of the Angelus, all the faithful fell on their knees, and even now pious Catholics do so. You should kneel also, for you thus venerate the Mother of Jesus, and by her Jesus Himself. St. Charles Borromeo, an Archbishop, did not hesitate to kneel in the open street and repeat the angelic salutation.
In what does the “Angelus Domini” consist?
In this that we say three Ave Maria; before the first one we say: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she was conceived by the Holy Ghost; before the second: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word; before the third: and the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.
Why and how often is the Angelus Domini said?
It is said in order to remind us of Christ’s Incarnation and in thanks for it; to ask the blessed Virgin’s maternal protection against all enemies visible and invisible; to recollect at least three times in the day, morning, noon, and night, like David to give praise to God, and take a little time expressly for prayer, for which purpose the bells are rung three times a day.
How should we say the Angelus Domini?
With respect, that is, slowly and kneeling (except on Saturday evenings and Sundays in Easter-time, when it is said standing); contritely, since Christ became man because of our sins; devoutly, that is, heart and lips should be in accord.
SALUTATION TO MARY. Hail Mary, full of grace! I rejoice and give thee joy, that thou wert chosen for the Mother of the Most High and Queen of heaven and earth. With thee is the Father who from all eternity begot Him whom thou didst bear; with thee is the Son whom thou didst carry in thy virginal womb; with thee is the Holy Ghost, overshadowed by whose power thou didst become the Mother of God. Thou art blessed amongst women, thou art the Joy of heaven and the Ornament of the Church of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.