Ave, Maria, gratia plena

AnnunciazioneAs Mary was, so is the Church today, virgin and handmaid; at the beginning of the year’s liturgy, she waits for everything from the Lord’s grace. Those who would receive Christ and bring Him forth must become like her . . . her soul was virginal, so well cut loose from everything of earth, so humble before God, that He could wholly fill her. (D. Aemiliana Löhr, “The Mass Through the Year”)

Sunday of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent belongs to Our Blessed Lady; one has only to attend carefully to the Proper Chants of the Fourth Sunday to sense that Mary, the Virgin Full of Grace, is there.

In the traditional liturgy, the presence of the Mother of God is evoked in the many Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons that greet her and that reveal the thoughts of her Immaculate Heart, allowing us to enter into her prayer and to entrust all our prayers to her. The Ember Wednesday of David is a kind of Advent Marian festival; the Roman stational church being Saint Mary Major, and the Gospel (Missus Est) of the Mass being that of the Annunciation.

Blessed Paul VI, influenced, no doubt, by the ancient practice of the venerable Church of Milan, desired that, in the Novus Ordo, the Fourth Sunday of Advent should become a veritable festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As he intimates in Marialis Cultus, Blessed Montini wanted to envelop the Christmas mystery in the gentle presence of the Virgin Mother. By dedicating the Fourth Sunday of Advent (in the Novus Ordo) to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by restoring to January 1st, the feast of the Circumcision, its ancient title of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Blessed Paul VI sought to present the Infant Christ, the Redeemer of the world, circled round by the tenderness of the Blessed Virgin. This, of course, the traditional liturgy already did with a richness and delicacy that was organically refined and enriched over the course of the ages. One is always left wondering why the clear stipulation of the Second Vatican Council was not followed: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 23).

Dew From Above

The Blessed Virgin is present in today’s poignant Introit, Rorate; it is Our Lady’s song before it is ours. It can only be our prayer because it was first the prayer of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Heart. “Send down dew from above, you heavens, and let the skies pour down upon us the rain we long for, Him, the Just One: may He, the Saviour, spring from the closed womb of the earth” (Is 45:8). There is no prayer that does not begin in an intense longing for the dew from above.  Similarly, the ravishing Offertory Antiphon, Ave Maria, gratia plena (Luke 1:28) and the Communion Antiphon, Ecce, virgo concipiet (Isaias 7:14) invite us to conversation with the Virgin Mother of the Lord, to a quiet contemplation of her beauty, and to the imitation of her Fiat. “Be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

Paolo Vi a LourdesOur Lady: Indispensable to the Advent of Christ

Through the dispositions of her liturgy, Mother Church teaches us that the Blessed Virgin Mary is indispensable to every advent of Christ.

If you would welcome Christ, welcome Mary.
If you would receive Christ, seek Mary.
If you would know Christ, know Mary.
If you would love Christ, love Mary.

Thy Grace Into Our Hearts

Today’s Collect in the Novus Ordo is, in fact, a prayer already familiar and worn, like a thing much loved, because it is the oration that, three times each day, concludes the Little Office of the Incarnation that we call the Angelus.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.

This prayer sums up the whole economy of our salvation: the message of an angel to the Virgin; the immensity of her “Yes”; the bitter Passion and the Blood outpoured; the Cross, the Tomb, and the triumph of the Prince of Life.

Portress of the Mysteries of Christ

Of all these mysteries, Mary is the Mystical Portress and the Keeper of the Gate. This is why the saints teach that true devotion to Mary is a sure sign of predestination. Understand this aphorism as the saints did: one who loves Mary is destined to imitate her “Yes”; and to follow her through the Passion and Cross of her Son into the glory of His Resurrection.

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