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Feast of Our Lady's Expectation - December 18th - Printable Version

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Feast of Our Lady's Expectation - December 18th - Stone - 12-18-2020

December 18 – Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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This Feast, which is now kept, not only throughout the whole of Spain, but in almost all the Churches of the Catholic world, owes its origin to the Bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo, in 656. These Prelates having thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joy solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of our Lord, and is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter Time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason—they decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christ, 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 course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome, and of those of the whole world, which solemnize the twenty-fifth 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 eighteenth 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, together with the O Adonai, the Antiphon of the Advent Office)—is kept with great devotion in Spain. A High Mass is sung, at a very early hour, each morning during the Octave, at which all who are with child, whether rich or poor, consider it a duty to assist, that they may thus honor our Lady’s Maternity, and beg her blessing upon themselves. It is not to be wondered at that the Holy See has approved of this pious practice being introduced into almost every other country. We find that the Church of Milan, 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 these details belong strictly to the archaeology of the Liturgy, and enter not into the plan of our present work; let us, then, return to the Feast of our Lady’s Expectation, which the Church has established and sanctioned as a new 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, dear 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 is come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to his entering into our hearts.

The Great Antiphon to Our Lady

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O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiæ Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod carnitis.


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 ye behold, is a divine mystery.


RE: Feast of Our Lady's Expectation - December 18th - Stone - 12-18-2020

From the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:
Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Exspectatio Partus B.V.M.)

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Celebrated on 18 December by nearly the entire Latin Church. Owing to the ancient law of the Church prohibiting the celebration of feasts during Lent (a law still in vigour at Milan), the Spanish Church transferred the feast of the Annunciation from 25 March to the season of Advent, the Tenth Council of Toledo (656) assigning it definitely to 18 December. It was kept with a solemn octave. When the Latin Church ceased to observe the ancient custom regarding feasts in Lent, the Annunciation came to be celebrated twice in Spain, viz. 25 March and 18 December, in the calendars of both the Mozarabic and the Roman Rite (Missale Gothicum, ed. Migne, pp. 170, 734). The feast of 18 December was commonly called, even in the liturgical books, "S. Maria de la O", because on that day the clerics in the choir after Vespers used to utter a loud and protracted "O", to express the longing of the universe for the coming of the Redeemer (Tamayo, Mart. Hisp., VI, 485). The Roman "O" antiphons have nothing to do with this term, because they are unknown in the Mozarabic Rite. This feast and its octave were very popular in Spain, where the people still call it "Nuestra Señora de la O". It is not known at what time the term Expectatio Partus first appeared; it is not found in the Mozarabic liturgical books. St. Ildephonsus cannot, therefore, have invented it, as some have maintained. The feast was always kept in Spain and was approved for Toledo in 1573 by Gregory XIII as a double major, without an octave. The church of Toledo has the privilege (approved 29 April 1634) of celebrating this feast even when it occurs on the fourth Sunday of Advent. The "Expectatio Partus" spread from Spain to other countries; in 1695 it was granted to Venice and Toulouse, in 1702 to the Cistercians, in 1713 to Tuscany, in 1725 to the Papal States. The Office in the Mozarabic Breviary is exceedingly beautiful; it assigns special antiphons for every day of the octave. At Milan the feast of the Annunciation is, even to the present, kept on the last Sunday before Christmas. The Mozarabic Liturgy also celebrates a feast called the Expectation (or Advent) of St. John the Baptist on the Sunday preceding 24 June.