Feast of the Annunciation
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March 25 – The Annunciation of the Ever Blessed Virgin
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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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, made made flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and dwelt among us. We must spend it in joy. While 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; 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 honor 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 fulfillment 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 ail 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 Shem 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, tell us that the great Mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March. 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.

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 forever, 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 forever 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 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. 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 honored 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, solemnize 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 rested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a Mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and he himself overthrew the gates of the enemies. 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.


FIRST VESPERS

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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. We have elsewhere (Dec. 8 – Advent Vespers) shown how each of the five refers to the Mother of God.

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

The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.

Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.

O Christ! the Lord thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence 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: for the Father hath said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.

The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Therefore, Father, the Lord, thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the clay of his wrath.

He shall also judge among nations, he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.

He cometh now in humility: he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: 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.

Reading of PSALM 112

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.



Reading of PSALM 121
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 forever.


Reading of PSALM 126
ANT. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign forever.

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


Reading of PSALM 147
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 – Ave, Maris Stella

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.

℣. Hail, Mary, full of grace.

℟. 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, etc.


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Mass

The Church has taken most of the chants of today’s Mass from the Forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the Royal Prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It was her Virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy Virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her that is their Mother and their model.

Introit
Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebus: adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus adducentur tibi in lætitia et exsultatione. 
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.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. ℣. Gloria Patri. Vultum tuum. 
Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. ℣. Glory, &c. All the rich.


In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine Maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with this God who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our Faith, and was accomplished on this twenty-fifth of March.

Collect
Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem. 
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, &c.

To this is added the Collect for the Feria of Lent.

Epistle
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet. Ch. VII.

In those days: the Lord spoke unto Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he (Isaias) said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. 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.

Quote:The Prophet is speaking to a wicked king who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God’s merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating today: A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son. And when was it that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. The fullness of time came, and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a Virgin should bring forth a son—was exciting much interest. This is the day on which the Mystery was accomplished; let us adore the power of God and the fidelity wherewith he fulfills his promises. The author of the laws of nature suspends them; he acts independently of them—Virginity and Maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be born is God. A Virgin could not bring forth other than God himself: the Son of Mary is, therefore, called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles himself. Henceforth, he will have every tongue confess, not only his divinity, but also his Human Nature, which he has assumed in order that he might redeem us. From this day forward, he is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in his Mother’s womb, as other children. Like them, he will, after his birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for he is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that he might restore the Old. Without losing aught of his Divinity, he shares in our weak finite being, that he may make us partakers of the divine nature.


In the Gradual, the Church unites with David in praising the beauty of the Emmanuel, his kingdom and his strength; for he comes in humility, that he may rise again in glory; he comes to give battle that he may conquer and triumph.

Gradual
Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum. 
Grace is spread on thy lips; therefore hath the Lord blessed thee for ever.

℣. Propter veritatem, et mansuetudinem, et justiam; et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua. 
℣. For thy truth, meekness and righteousness, shall thy right hand lead thee on wonderfully.

The Church continues the same Canticle in the Trace, but it is in praise of Mary, the Virgin and Mother. The Holy Ghost loves her for her incomparable beauty: it is on this day that he overshadows her and she conceives the Word. Where is there a glory like that of Mary, who is an object of complacency to the Three Persons of the Trinity? God could create nothing more exalted than the Mother of God. David foretells how this, his daughter, was to be surrounded by holy Virgins, who would follow her as their Queen and Model. This day is also the triumph of her Virginity, for it is raised to the dignity of divine Maternity! Her triumph frees her sex from slavery, and renders it capable of everything that is honorable and great.

Tract
Audi, filia, et vide, et inclina aurem tuam: quia concupivit Rex speciem tuam. 
Hearken, O Daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: for the King is taken with thy beauty.

℣. Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: filiæ regum in honore tuo. 
℣. All the rich among the people shall intreat thy countenance: the daughters of kings shall honor thee.

℣. Adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus afferentur tibi. 
℣. Virgins shall be brought in her retinue to the King: the virgins, her companions, shall be presented to thee.

℣. Adducentur in lætitia et exsultatione: adducentur in templum Regis. 
℣. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King.


Gospel
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to Luke. Ch. I.

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.

Quote:By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of Heaven, and thy consent brings us our Savior. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the Angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over Satan!—St. Bernard, in one of his Homilies on this Gospel thus speaks: “Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our Parents, but you were also our destroyers; and what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a Daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time is now come when the humiliation is taken away, neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: The woman, whom thou gavest me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat. Go, Eve, to Mary; go, Mother, to thy Daughter; let thy Daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.

“What is this thou sayest, Adam? The woman, whom thou gavest me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat? These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness by finding in the treasury of his own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which he had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman, of whom thou complainest, he gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is Wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the Tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: The Woman, whom thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the Tree of Life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it thou hast given me life.” (St Bernard, Homil. II. Super Missus est.)

In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the Archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of God.

Offertory
Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. 
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.


In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the Mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two Natures, Divine and Human, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary.

Secret
In mentibus nostris, quæsumus, Domine, veræ fidei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de Virgine Deum verum et hominem confitemur, per ejus salutiferæ resurrectionis potentiam, ad æternam mereamur pervenire lætitiam. Per eumdem. 
Strengthen, we beseech thee, O Lord, in our soul, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess him, that was conceived of a Virgin, to be true God and true Man, may, by the power of his saving resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Secret for the Feria of Lent.


The greatness of the Solemnity obliges the Church to substitute, for the Lenten Preface, the one she uses on our Lady’s Feasts.

Preface
Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Et te in Annuntiatione beatæ Mariæ semper virginis collandare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum Sancti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, tumen æternum mundo effudit Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli Cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphimm, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. 

It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee, on the Annunciation of the Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, conceived thy Only Begotten Son, and the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth to the world the eternal Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee, glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy! Holy! Holy!


The Communion-anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a Virgin that has conceived and brought forth Him, who, being God and Man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us, and in us.

Communion
Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. 
Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.


In the Postcommunion, the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the Mysteries which God has achieved for our Salvation, and which were the consequences of the one of today. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our Human Nature, we have had the Passion of this our Divine Redeemer; and his Passion was followed by his Resurrection, whereby he triumphed over our enemy, Death.

Postcommunion
Gratiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut, qui Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus; per Passionem ejus et Crucem, ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem. 
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. Through the same, &c.


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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 fulfillment 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, and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh! who comest not to judge, but to save! 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 the 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 honor; 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 Infant-God, our Savior: 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!
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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#2
The Annunciation 
According to the Fathers of the Church

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“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, 
of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” - The Gospel according to St. Luke, 1:26-27.


The Mission of the Archangel Gabriel

St. Basil: The heavenly spirits visit us, not as it seems fit to them, but as the occasion conduces to our advantage, for they are ever looking upon the glory and fulness of the Divine Wisdom.

St. Gregory the Great: To the virgin Mary was sent, not any one of the angels, but the Archangel Gabriel; for upon this service it was meet that the highest angel should come, as being the bearer of the highest of all tidings. He is therefore marked by a particular name, to signify what was his effectual part in the work. For Gabriel is interpreted, “the strength of God.” By the strength of God then was He to be announced Who was coming as the God of strength, and mighty in battle, to put down the powers of the air.

Bede the Venerable: It was a fit beginning for man’s restoration, that an angel should be sent down from God to consecrate a virgin by a divine birth, for the first cause of man’s perdition was the Devil sending a serpent to deceive a woman by the spirit of pride.

St. John Chrysostom: The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby too much troubled, but before the conception he addresses her, not in a dream, but standing by her in visible shape. For as great indeed were the tidings she receives, she needed before the issue of the event an extraordinary visible manifestation.


He Is Sent to a Virgin

St. Augustine: To a virgin, for Christ could be born from virginity alone, seeing He could not have an equal in His birth. It was necessary for our Head by this mighty miracle to be born according to the flesh of a virgin, that He might signify that His members were to be born in the spirit of a virgin Church.

St. Jerome: And rightly an angel is sent to the virgin, because the virgin state is ever akin to that of angels. Surely in the flesh to live beyond the flesh is not a life on earth but in heaven.

St. Ambrose: Scripture has rightly mentioned that she was espoused, as well as a virgin, a virgin, that she might appear free from all connection with man; espoused, that she might not be branded with the disgrace of sullied virginity, whose swelling womb seemed to bear evident marks of her corruption. But the Lord had rather that men should cast a doubt upon His birth than upon His mother’s purity. He knew how tender is a virgin’s modesty, and how easily assailed the reputation of her chastity, nor did He think the credit of His birth was to be built-up by His mother’s wrongs. It follows therefore, that the holy Mary’s virginity was of as untainted purity as it was also of unblemished reputation.


The Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Protects the Secret of God

St. Ambrose: Not to add that also greater credit is given to the words of Mary, and the cause of falsehood removed? For it might seem that unmarried becoming pregnant, she had wished to shade her guilt by a lie; but an espoused person has no reason for lying, since to women child-birth is the reward of wedlock, the grace of the marriage bed. Again, the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a man, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.

Origen: For if she had had no husband, soon would the thought have stolen into the Devil’s mind, how she who had known no man could be pregnant. It was right that the conception should be Divine, something more exalted than human nature.

St. Ambrose: But still more has it baffled the princes of the world, for the malice of devils soon detects even hidden things, while they who are occupied in worldly vanities, cannot know the things of God. But moreover, a more powerful witness of her purity is adduced. Her husband, who might both have been indignant at the injury and revenged the dishonor, acknowledged this mystery.

Bede the Venerable: “And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Maria, in Hebrew, is the star of the sea; but in Syriac it is interpreted Mistress, and well, because Mary was thought worthy to be the mother of the Lord of the whole world and the light of endless ages.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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#3
Feast of the Annunciation

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Here followeth the Feast of The Annunciation or Salutation of the Angel Gabriel to our Lady.

The feast of this day is called the Annunciation of our Lady, for on this day the angel Gabriel showed to the glorious Virgin Mary the coming of the Blessed Son of God. That is to wit, how he ought to come into the glorious Virgin, and take on her nature and flesh human for to save the world. It was well thing reasonable that the angel should come to the glorious Virgin Mary, for like as Eve by the exhorting of the devil gave her consent to do the sin of inobedience to our perdition, right so by the greeting of the angel Gabriel and by exhorting, the glorious Virgin Mary gave her consenting to his message by obedience, to our salvation. 

Wherefor like as the first woman was cause of our damnation, so was the blessed Virgin Mary beginning of our redemption. When that the angel Gabriel was sent for to show the incarnation of our Saviour Jesu Christ, he found her alone, enclosed in her chamber, like as Saint Bernard saith, in which the maidens and virgins ought to abide in their houses, without running abroad out openly, and they ought also to flee the words of men, of which their honour and good renomee might be lessed or hurt. And the angel said to the glorious Virgin Mary: I salute thee, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. There is not found in Scripture in no part such a saluing. And it was brought from heaven unto the glorious Virgin Mary, which was the first woman that ever in the world offered to God first her virginity. And the angel said to her after: Thou shalt be blessed above all other women, for thou shalt escape the malediction that all other women have in childing in sin and in sorrow; and thou shalt be mother of God, and shalt abide a pure virgin and clean. And our blessed Lady was much abashed of this salutation, and thought in herself the manner thereof. This was a good manner of a virgin that so wisely held her still and spake not, and showing example to virgins, which ought not lightly to speak, ne without advice ne manner to answer. And when the angel knew that for this salutation she was timorous and abashed, anon he repeaced her, saying: Mary, be nothing afeared, for thou hast found soothly grace at God, for thou art chosen above all women for to receive his blessed Son and be mother to God, and moyen and advocate for to set peace between God and man, for to destroy the death and bring the life. O thou that art a virgin, saith Saint Ambrose, learn of Mary to be mannered and fearful to all men, learn to be still and to eschew all dissolutions.

Mary was afeared of the salutation of the angel, the which said: Thou shalt conceive and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, and he shall be called the Son of God. And Mary said to the angel: In what manner may this be that thou sayest? For I have purposed in mine heart that I shall never know man, and yet I never knew none, how then shall I have a child against the course of nature, and may abide a virgin? Then the angel informed her, and began to say how her virginity should be saved in the conceiving of the Son of God, and answered to her in this manner. The Holy Ghost shall come in to thee, which shall make thee to conceive: the manner how thou shalt conceive thou shalt know better than I shall con say, for that shall be the work of the Holy Ghost, which of thy blood and of thy flesh shall form purely in the body of the child that thou shalt bear, and other work to this conception shalt thou not do. And the virtue of God sovereign shall shadow thee in such wise that thou shalt never feel in thee any burning ne covetise carnal, and shall purge thine heart from all desires temporal, and yet shall the Holy Ghost shadow thee with the mantle corporal, that the blessed Son of God shall be hid in thee and of thee for to cover the right excellent clarte of his divinity; so that by this ombre or shadow may be known and seen his dignity; like as Hugh of Saint Victor and Saint Bernard say. 

After, the angel said: And for as much as thou shalt conceive of the Holy Ghost and not of man, the child that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Yet of this conception which is above nature, the angel said to her this example: Lo! Elizabeth thy cousin, which is barren, hath conceived a child in her age, for there is nothing impossible to God, which is almighty. Then said the glorious Virgin Mary to the angel the answer for which he was come: Lo! the handmaid of God, he do to me that he hath ordained after thy words. She hath given to us example to be humble when prosperity of high riches cometh to us, for the first word that she spake or said when she was made mother of God and queen of Heaven, that was that she called herself ancille or handmaid, and not lady. Much people is humble in low estate and but few in high estate, that is to wit in great estates, and therefore is humility more praised in them that be great in estate, as soon as she said: Lo! here the handmaid of God, let it be done to me after thy words. Thomas in compendio: In that same time that she had thus given her assent to the angel, she conceived in her Jesu Christ, which in that same hour was in her, perfect man and perfect God in one person; and as wise as he was in heaven, or when he was thirty years old. This blessed Annunciation happened the twentyfifth day of the month of March, on which day happened also, as well tofore as after, these things that hereafter be named. On that same day Adam, the first man, was created and fell into original sin by inobedience, and was put out of paradise terrestrial. After, the angel showed the conception of our Lord to the glorious Virgin Mary. 

Also that same day of the month Cain slew Abel his brother. Also Melchisedech made offering to God of bread and wine in the presence of Abraham. Also on the same day Abraham offered Isaac his son. That same day Saint John Baptist was beheaded, and Saint Peter was that day delivered out of prison, and Saint James the more, that day beheaded of Herod. And our Lord Jesu Christ was on that day crucified, wherefore that is a day of great reverence. 

Of the salutation that the angel brought to the glorious Virgin, we read an example of a noble knight which for to amend his life gave and rendered himself into an abbey of Citeaux, and, forasmuch as he was no clerk, there was assigned to him a master for to teach him, and to be with the brethren clerks, but he could nothing learn in long time that he was there save these two words: Ave Maria, which words he had so sore imprinted in his heart that alway he had them in his mouth wheresomever he was. At last he died and was buried in the churchyard of the brethren. It happed after, that upon the burials grew a right fair fleur-de-lis, and in every flower was written in letters of gold: Ave Maria, of which miracle all the brethren were amarvelled, and they did open the sepulchre, and found that the root of this fleur-de-lis came out of the mouth of the said knight, and anon they understood that our Lord would have him honoured for the great devotion that he had to say these words. Ave Maria

Another knight there was that had a fair place beside the highway where much people passed, whom he robbed as much as he might, and so he used his life. But he had a good custom, for every day he saluted the glorious Virgin Mary, in saying: Ave Maria; and for no labour he left not to greet our Lady, as said is. It happed that an holy man passed by his house, whom he robbed and despoiled, but that holy man prayed them that robbed him that they would bring him to their master for he had to speak with him in his house of a secret thing for his profit. And when the robbers heard that they led him tofore the knight their lord; and anon the holy man prayed him that he would do come all his meiny tofore him. And when his meiny by the commandment of the knight were assembled the holy man said: Yet be they not all here; there is one yet to come. Then one of them aperceived that the chamberlain of the lord was not come; and anon the knight made him to come. And when the holy man saw him come anon he said: I conjure thee by the virtue of Jesu Christ our Lord that thou say to us who thou art, and for what cause thou art come hither. Anon the chamberlain answered: Alas, now must I say and knowledge myself, I am no man but am a devil which am in the form of a man and have taken it fourteen years, by which space I have dwelled with this knight, for my master hath sent me hither to the end that I should take heed night and day that if this knight ceased to say the salutation, Ave Maria, for then I should strangle him with mine own hand and bring him to hell because of the evil life that he hath led and leadeth. But because he saith every day this salutation, Ave Maria, I might not have him, and therefore I abode here so long, for there passeth him no day but that he salueth our Lady. When the knight heard this he was much afeard, and fell down to the feet of this holy man and demanded pardon of his sins. After this the holy man said to the devil: I command thee in the name of our Lord that thou depart hence, and go into another place where thou mayst grieve ne annoy no man.

Then let us pray to the glorious Virgin Mary that she keep us from the devil, and that we may by her come to the glory of heaven, to the which bring us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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#4
The Annunciation

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The fact of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is related in Luke 1:26-38. The Evangelist tells us that in the sixth month after the conception of St. John the Baptist by Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to the Virgin Mary, at Nazareth, a small town in the mountains of Galilee. Mary was of the house of David, and was espoused (i.e. married) to Joseph, of the same royal family. She had, however, not yet entered the household of her spouse, but was still in her mother's house, working, perhaps, over her dowry. (Bardenhewer, Maria Verk., 69). And the angel having taken the figure and the form of man, came into the house and said to her: "Hail, full of grace (to whom is given grace, favoured one), the Lord is with thee." Mary having heard the greeting words did not speak; she was troubled in spirit, since she knew not the angel, nor the cause of his coming, nor the meaning of the salutation. And the angel continued and said: "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 forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end." The Virgin understood that there was question of the coming Redeemer. But, why should she be elected from amongst women for the splendid dignity of being the mother of the Messiah, having vowed her virginity to God? (St. Augustine). Therefore, not doubting the word of God like Zachary, but filled with fear and astonishment, she said: "How shall this be done, because I know not man?"

The angel to remove Mary's anxiety and to assure her that her virginity would be spared, answered: "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." In token of the truth of his word he made known to her the conception of St. John, the miraculous pregnancy of her relative now old and sterile: "And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth; she also has 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." Mary may not yet have fully understood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the Omnipotence of God she said: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word."

Since 1889 Holzmann and many Protestant writers have tried to show that the verses Luke 1:34-35, containing the message of conception through the Holy Ghost are interpolated. Usener derives the origin of the "myth" from the heathen hero worship; but Harnack tries to prove that it is of Judaic origin (Isaiah 7:14, Behold a Virgin shall conceive, etc.). Bardenhewer, however, has fully established the authenticity of the text (p. 13). St. Luke may have taken his knowledge of the event from an older account, written in Aramaic or Hebrew. The words: "Blessed art thou among women" (v. 28), are spurious and taken from verse 42, the account of the Visitation. Cardinal Cajetan wanted to understand the words: "because I know not man", not of the future, but only of the past: up to this hour I do not know man. This manifest error, which contradicts the words of the text, has been universally rejected by all Catholic authors. The opinion that Joseph at the time of the Annunciation was an aged widower and Mary twelve or fifteen years of age, is founded only upon apocryphal documents. The local tradition of Nazareth pretends that the angel met Mary and greeted her at the fountain, and when she fled from him in fear, he followed her into the house and there continued his message. (Buhl, Geogr. v. Palaest., 1896.) The year and day of the Annunciation cannot be determined as long as new material does not throw more light on the subject. The present date of the feast (25 March) depends upon the date of the older feast of Christmas.

The Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus in His human nature. Through His mother He is a member of the human race. If the virginity of Mary before, during, and after the conception of her Divine Son was always considered part of the deposit of faith, this was done only on account of the historical facts and testimonials. The Incarnation of the Son of God did not in itself necessitate this exception from the laws of nature. Only reasons of expediency are given for it, chiefly, the end of the Incarnation. About to found a new generation of the children of God, The Redeemer does not arrive in the way of earthly generations: the power of the Holy Spirit enters the chaste womb of the Virgin, forming the humanity of Christ. Many holy fathers (Sts. Jerome, Cyril, Ephrem, Augustine) say that the consent of Mary was essential to the redemption. It was the will of God, St. Thomas says (Summa III:30), that the redemption of mankind should depend upon the consent of the Virgin Mary. This does not mean that God in His plans was bound by the will of a creature, and that man would not have been redeemed, if Mary had not consented. It only means that the consent of Mary was foreseen from all eternity, and therefore was received as essential into the design of God.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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