Grant to us, we beseech thee, O Lord: that we, who celebrate the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary our Queen, being defended by her succour, may obtain peace in this world, and glory in that which is to come; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
On this memorial of St John Eudes, falling as it does within the traditional Octave of the Assumption, a fitting passage from his great work ‘The Admirable Heart of Mary’.
‘Mary appears in heaven because she comes from heaven, because she is heaven’s masterpiece, the Empress of Heaven, its joy and its glory, in whom everything is heavenly. Even when her body dwelt on earth, her thoughts and affections were all rapt in heaven.
She is clothed with the eternal Sun of the Godhead and with all the perfections of the Divine Essence, which surround, fill and penetrate her to such an extent that she has become transformed, as it were, into the power, goodness and holiness of God.
She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her. None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.
She is crowned with twelve stars that represent the virtues which shine so brightly in her soul. The mysteries of her life are as many stars more luminous by far than the brightest lights of the sky. The privileges and prerogatives God has granted to her, the least of which is greater than anything shining in the firmament of heaven, as well as the glory of the saints of Paradise and of earth, are her crown and her glory in a much fuller sense than the Philippians could be said to be the crown and joy of St Paul’.
St John Eudes, 1601-1680
O God, who didst wonderfully choose thy Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ: grant us, by his example and teachings; that, growing in knowledge of thee, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
They laid her down, all woman-hood’s crown, with holy Mass and prayer,
And they carved the sign of the Cross divine above her with loving care,
They deemed she would lie till the trumpet-cry should waken the dead from gloom;
But He Who in fight had quelled death’s might, hath opened His Mother’s tomb.
The body fair hath passed away from out that hallowed ground,
And roses bloom where Mary lay, and lilies spring around:
The winding-sheet which wrapped her feet no longer holds the dead,
And useless lies the wimple white which bound the Virgin’s head.
Yet not for her a robe of gold with broidered art is meet;
Christ clothes her with the radiant sun, the moon is at her feet;
A crown of beamy stars is set upon her maiden brow;
Her soul doth magnify the Lord, high is the lowly now!
Richard Frederick Littledale, 1833-1890
There was silence in heaven, as if for half an hour -
Isaiah’s coals of wonder sealed the lips
Of Seraph, Principality and Power,
Of all the nine angelic fellowships.
The archangels, those sheer intelligences,
Were silent, with their eyes on heaven’s door.
So must our fancy dower them with senses,
Make them incarnate in a metaphor.
There was silence in heaven as Mary entered in,
For even Gabriel had not foreseen
The glory of a soul immune from sin
Throned in the body of the angels’ Queen.
Blessed be God and Mary in whose womb
Was woven God’s incredible disguise.
She gave Our Lord His Body. In the tomb
He gave her hers again and bade her rise.
Bright from death’s slumber she arose, the flush
Of a chaste joy illumining her cheeks;
Among the motherless in heaven there was a hush
To hear the way a mother laughs and speaks.
Eye had not seen, nor ear of angel heard,
Nor heart conceived - until Our Lady’s death -
What God for those that love Him had prepared
When heaven’s synonym was Nazareth!
Her beauty opened slowly like a flower,
Beauty to them eternally bequeathed.
There was silence in heaven; as if for half an hour
No angel breathed.
Alfred Barrett, 1906-1985
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst assume the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven: grant us, we beseech thee; that being ever intent on things above, we may be worthy to be partakers of her glory hereafter; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
On this feast of St Alphonsus de Liguori, and first day of the month traditionally dedicated to Our Blessed Lady’s Immaculate Heart, a prayer of St Alphonsus to the same.
‘O most pure Virgin Mary, I venerate thy most holy heart, which was the delight and resting-place of God, thy heart overflowing with humility, purity, and divine love. I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart all loathsome and wounded. O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and excite thee to help me. Do not stay to seek virtues or merit in me before assisting me. I am lost, and the only thing I merit is hell. See only my confidence in thee and the purpose I have to amend. Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst. I offer thee all the pains of his life; the cold that he endured in the stable; his journey into Egypt; the blood which he shed; the poverty, sweats, sorrows, and death that he endured for me; and this in thy presence. For the love of Jesus, take charge of my salvation. Ah, my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I have recourse to thee and ask thy help. Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them. O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied his blood. But the merits of this blood will not be applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God. Through thee do I hope for salvation. I ask not for riches, honours, or earthly goods. I seek only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of his will, and his heavenly kingdom, that I may love him eternally. Is it possible that thou wilt not hear me? No; for already thou has granted my prayer, as I hope; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection. My Mother, abandon me not. Never, never cease to pray for me, until thou seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee forever. Amen’.
St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, 1696-1787
O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be able to attain in gladness unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Oh! How radiantly the rising sun shone in Anne’s womb when Mary’s body there was brought to life by the coming of the soul; Mary, whose coming to be angels and humans had so ardently desired to see!
Just as a good zither player could approve of an unfinished zither if he could foresee it would have a pleasing tone, so did the Creator of all things greatly love Mary in her childhood, both in body and in soul, for he knew beforehand that her words and deeds would please him more than all beautiful music’.
St Bridget of Sweden, c.1303-1373
O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy loving-kindness; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
In the Calendar of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter today is the memorial of Our Lady of the Atonement. It is an observance rich in significance for the Ordinariate in North America since Our Lady, under this title, is the patroness of the first Pastoral Provision parish within the United States, Our Lady of the Atonement, in Texas, established in 1983 under the care of Fr Christopher Phillips.
The Pastoral Provision is essentially the precursor to the Ordinariate in the United States and Canada, provided for by Pope St John Paul II in 1981 to allow for the establishment of personal parishes, the ordaining of Anglican priests to the Catholic priesthood, and the retention of elements of Anglican liturgical practice, in a form which later came to be known as the ‘Anglican Use’. In 2017 the Vatican determined that those remaining parishes of the Pastoral Provision that had not yet entered into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter were to be transferred to its jurisdiction. It was at this time that Our Lady of the Atonement entered the fold.
The devotion of Our Lady of the Atonement has its roots in the life and work of an Anglo-Papalist priest, Lewis Wattson. In 1899 Wattson, together with a small group of Anglican nuns, founded the Society of the Atonement, referencing Romans 5:11 (“We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement”), and professed religious vows, with Wattson taking the name Paul James Francis. From its foundation the Society, though a part of the Episcopal Church of the United States, promoted corporate reunion with the Holy See and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Ten years later, in 1909, the Society - seventeen members strong - realised this goal for themselves with their own corporate reception into the Catholic Church. The process of canonisation for Father Paul, now Servant of God, was opened by Cardinal Dolan in 2015.
Within the Catholic Church the Society soon flourished - and flourishes still. Ten years after their reception into the Church the title ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’ was approved formally by Pope Benedict XV, with today’s feast day being approved by the Holy See in 1946. Given the roots of the devotion it was fitting that Father Phillips and his former Anglican community, now reconciled with the Holy See, should choose to dedicate themselves to Our Lady under this venerable title that is so expressive of that heartfelt desire - of Christ Himself - for his followers to be one with one another in Him. As Father Paul once said: “When we, therefore, give to our Blessed Mother the title of ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’, we mean ‘Our Lady of Unity’”. Father Paul’s prayers, together with those of Our Lady, have certainly sustained the steady growth of her parish in San Antonio over the past thirty-five years, as it has sought to share the treasures of the Anglican patrimony within the Catholic Church as a way of fulfilling Our Lord's prayer that “they may be one”.
'[Our Lady] is necessarily “of the Atonement” since it was the will of God that she play a necessary part in the atonement or redemption. This is not to say that without her man would have remained unredeemed but that God’s plan gave her a large share in the redemptive work. When we address the Blessed Mother, as “of the Atonement”, we mean then, that there is some very close bond between the atonement and her, that she belongs to the atonement and the atonement to her. Mary, although her part is in no way similar in nature to that of her divine Son’s, cooperated with Jesus Christ, as no other creature did, in his work of reconciling man with God.
Her claim to this high title rests most solidly on the fact that she consented to become, and became the mother of the Redeemer; that she suffered with Jesus during the passion; and that all graces merited for mankind by Christ have come to us through Mary’.
Fr Paul of Graymoor, Servant of God, 1863-1940
O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Holy the womb that bare Him,
Holy the breasts that fed,
But holier still the royal heart
That in His passion bled.
written to be placed under a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst prepare an habitation meet for the Holy Ghost: mercifully grant that we, celebrating with devout mind the festival of the same Immaculate Heart, may be enabled to live after thine own Heart; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world’s reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin. Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
We salute you, for in your holy womb was confined him who is beyond all limitation. Because of you the holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult; the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven; the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth; believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.
What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the holy Trinity.
Who can put Mary’s high honour into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking his own servant to become his mother?
Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen’.
from a homily, delivered at the Council of Ephesus, 431, by St Cyril of Alexandria, c.376-444
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When the Almighty God meant to stoop so low as to be fixed in our centre, he chose for his mother a holy person and a maid. She received the angel’s message with such sublimity of faith that her faith was turned to vision, her hopes into actual possession, and her grace into glory. She who was full of God, bearing God in her virgin womb and the Holy Spirit in her heart, arose with haste and gladness to communicate that joy which was designed for all the world. Let us notice how light and airy was the coming of the Virgin, as she made haste over the mountains; her very little burden which she bear hindered her not but that she might make haste enough; her spirit was cheerful, and her body full of life. And there is this excellency in religion, that when we carry Christ within us, his presence is not so peevish as to disturb our health, nor so sad as to discompose our cheerfulness, but he re-creates our body by charity and fills us with serenity. For as the virgin climbed mountains easily, so there is no difficulty in our life so great but it may be managed by those assistances we receive from the holiest Jesus, when we carry him about us.
Mary found no one so fit as her cousin Elisabeth to share the first emanations of her overjoyed heart, for she was to be the mother of the Baptist, who was sent as forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord her son. It is not easy to imagine what collision of joys was at this blessed meeting; two mothers of two great princes, the one the greatest that was born of woman, and the other his Lord. When these who were made mothers by two miracles came together, they met with joy and mysteriousness. The mother of our Lord went to visit the mother of his servant, and the Holy Ghost made the meeting festival. Never, but in heaven, was there more joy and ecstacy. For these women were hallowed and made big with religion and they met to unite their joy and their eucharist. By this God would have us know that when the blessings of God descend upon us, they should be published in the communion of the saints, so that our charity and eucharist may increase that of others, and the praises of God be sung aloud, till the sound strike at heaven and join with the alleluias which the morning stars in their orbs pay to their great creator’.
Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667 (Anglican Bishop of Down and Connor, 1661-1667)
O God, who didst lead the Blessed Virgin Mary to visit Elizabeth, to their exceeding joy and comfort: grant unto thy people; that as Mary did rejoice to be called the Mother of the Lord, so we may ever rejoice to believe the Incarnation of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Divine Worship: The Missal.
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son.
‘With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.
Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home”, as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love.
Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from some trial? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand”, she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields wholly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise”. Where God is, there is a future.
Indeed — when we allow God’s love to pervade and to shape the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.
Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Fr Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
‘Our Lady said yes for the human race. Each one of us must echo that yes for our lives.
We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.
The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation.
What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life, our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows - to God.
To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world - that is what we shall be asked.
Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it was in her, we must echo her fiat’.
Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace int our hearts: that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O MOST HOLY MOTHER, Queen of Sorrows,
who didst follow thy beloved Son through all the Way of the Cross,
and whose Heart was pierced with a fresh sword of grief
at all the Stations of that most sorrowful journey,
obtain for us, we beseech thee, O most loving Mother,
a perpetual remembrance of our Blessed Saviour's Cross and Death,
and a true and tender devotion to all the mysteries of His most holy Passion.
Obtain for us the grace to hate sin,
even as He hated it in the agony in the garden;
to endure wrong and insult with all patience
as He endured them in the judgement hall;
to be meek and humble in all our trials
as He was before His judges;
to love our enemies even as He loved his murderers,
and prayed for them upon the Cross;
and to glorify God and to do good to our neighbour,
even as He did in every mystery of His suffering.
O Queen of Martyrs,
who by the Dolours of thy Immaculate Heart on Calvary,
didst merit to share the Passion of Our Most Holy Redeemer,
obtain for us some portion of thy compassion,
that for love of Jesus crucified,
we may be crucified to the world in this life,
and in the life to come may,
by His infinite merits and thy most powerful intercession,
reign with Him in glory everlasting.
And first, O Lord, I praise and magnify thy Name
For the Most Holy Virgin-Mother of God,
who is the Highest of thy Saints.
The most Glorious of thy Creatures.
The most Perfect of all thy Works.
The nearest unto Thee in the Throne of God.
Whom thou didst please to make
Daughter of the Eternal Father,
Mother of the Eternal Son.
Spouse of the Eternal Spirit,
Tabernacle of the most Glorious Trinity.
Mother of Jesus.
Mother of the Messias.
Mother of him who was the Desire of all Nations.
Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Mother of the King of Heaven.
Mother of our Creator.
Mother and Virgin.
Mirror of Humility and Obedience.
Mirror of Wisdom and Devotion.
Mirror of Modesty and Chastity.
Mother of Sweetness and Resignation.
Mirror of Sanctity.
Mirror of all Virtues.
The most illustrious Light in the Church,
wearing over all her beauties the veil of Humility
to shine the more resplendently in thy Eternal Glory.
Thomas Traherne, 1636-1674
In this month dedicated to the Holy Family, a rosary meditation on the Joyful Mystery of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple:
‘When Our Lady asked her Child: “Son, why hast thou done so to us?” His answer teaches us the hierarchy, or due order, of obedience: obedience to God, which must always come first, and is often humanly mysterious. St Francis leaving his father’s house to do God’s will, St Clare, St Thomas Aquinas, must all have got strength from this Mystery.
Much more puzzling is the question why Our Lord, most loving of children, should have let His mother suffer that long – what must have seemed that endless – search. Journet, in Our Lady of Sorrows, sees an echo, a correspondence between Our Lady’s “Son, why?” and Our Lord’s cry on the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The three days’ loss is one of the Seven Sorrows that make Our Lady so close to her Son in His sacrifice.
Meditating on this Mystery, most people look back at the three days’ loss and finish their prayer in the Temple. But others go home with the Holy Family and stay awhile at Nazareth. Chesterton has pointed out that the Holy Family takes the ordinary human family and reverses its values. Yet in the life at Nazareth the human hierarchy was kept, even though its values were reversed.
The child was God, but He obeyed the man who was head of the house. He had gone to the Temple in direct obedience to His heavenly Father, but now for eighteen years he would obey God through His human mother, His human foster-father. It is one of the most amazing facts of the Christian economy that God chose a way of saving men that made two human beings strictly necessary. God needed Our Lady and St Joseph: Our Lord could not alone have made a human family’.
from The Splendour of the Rosary, 1948, by Maisie Ward, 1889-1975
‘Rather less than eighty years ago, a little girl stood before the rock of Massabieille, in the township of Lourdes, on the slopes of the Pyrenees. No premonition of any divine event disturbed her thoughts; she was at play with her companions, and if she took off the shoes from her feet it was only to cross the stream that lay in their path. She heard a noise, like that of a strong wind; she turned, and saw that the trees in the valley were not bowed as a strong wind must bow them. She turned back towards the rock, and a rose-bush that grew in front of it. And now she saw the rose-bush flaming with something more bright, more pure, more beautiful than fire. She saw above it the figure of a Lady; what need to describe it in detail? Wherever Christendom reaches, the helpless aspirations of Christian artists have made that figure familiar to every human eye. The Lady said no word, but she made one sign, the sign of the cross; and the little girl, taking courage, said her rosary as if to defend her from harm. Then the Vision beckoned to her to come nearer; she drew back in alarm, and it vanished. She took off her other stocking, crossed the stream, and rejoined her companions, who had seen nothing. That was all; it was only in later visits that she realised what a grace had been bestowed upon her; that she, too, was to lead a world out of its captivity; draw it after her to worship God and celebrate the glories of his Mother on that mountain. It was only many days later that the gracious Lady revealed herself by name; lifted up her eyes to heaven and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception”’.
from a homily preached in 1934 by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: we humbly beseech thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On this feast we commemorate the Purification of our Lady, her act of obedience to the law of her Church and her people, her humble act of thanksgiving for the birth of her Child. The feast is also called the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and is known familiarly as Candlemas. In the Greek Church the festival is called ‘The Meeting’ (Hypapante), and commemorates the meeting of Simeon and Anna.
This old man, Simeon, had been waiting for the redemption of Israel, and longing for the fulfilment of hopes which only on this day did he rightly understand. As the Blessed Mother enters the Temple bearing in her arms the Holy Child, suddenly the Light comes to him, he realises the meaning of the Temple. The sacred building has been waiting for this entrance, for His possession Whom he holds in his arms. The Temple of Solomon was made for that day when the glory of God filled it. Now into this Temple is brought by the Blessed Mother the Presence of God in a yet more wondrous way, and Simeon feels the light smiting down upon him. Life, religion, the Temple – all are for the possession of God.
St Paul says, “Know ye not your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” We must make this temple of our souls a fit place for His Presence. We are given light, and we must walk as the children of light. Light is given to us not to save us trouble, but to enable us to take more trouble; not to save us thought, but to enable us to think more truly, more deeply. Our religion is mean to us nothing less than this: that we are to be possessed by the Presence of God’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray… that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Numbers 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!’
Pope Benedict XVI, 1 January 2008
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who by thy wondrous holiness didst adorn a human home, and by thy subjection to Mary and Joseph didst consecrate the order of earthly families: grant that we, being enlightened by the example of their life with thee in thy Holy Family, and assisted by their prayers, may at last be joined with them in thine eternal fellowship; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘O Virgo Virginum, the last of the Great O Antiphons in the old English liturgy of Sarum, occurs on December 23rd. Its structure is quite different from all the other Great O Antiphons. The first part is a question addressed to the Virgin Mary; in the second part she replies with another question, and then, gives her answer.
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold is a divine mystery.
Here, at Silverstream Priory, since the beginning of Advent, we have been singing O Virgo Virginum each morning as the Marian Antiphon at the end of Lauds’.
Dom Mark Daniel Kirby OSB, Prior of Silverstream Priory, Co. Meath, Ireland, writing in 2012
‘The Apostle Paul teaches us that in the fulness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman, to redeem us from sin and to make us his sons and daughters. Accordingly, we are no longer servants but children and heirs of God. Therefore, the Church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death. May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life! This is our cry: life with dignity for all! For all who have been conceived in their mother’s womb, for street children, for Guadalupe! To you we present this countless multitude of the faithful praying to God in America. You who have penetrated their hearts, visit and comfort the homes, parishes and dioceses of the whole continent. Grant that Christian families may exemplarily raise their children in the Church’s faith and in love of the Gospel, so that they will be the seed of apostolic vocations. Turn your gaze today upon young people and encourage them to walk with Jesus Christ. O Lady and Mother of America! Strengthen the will be celebrated throughout America with the liturgical rank of feast.
O Mother! You know the paths followed by the first evangelisers of the New World, from Guanahani Island and Hispaniola to the Amazon forests and the Andean peaks, reaching to Tierra del Fuego in the south and to the Great Lakes and mountains of the north. Accompany the Church which is working in the nations of America, so that she may always preach the Gospel and renew her missionary spirit. Encourage all who devote their lives to the cause of Jesus and the spread of his kingdom. O gentle Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, for immigrants and refugees, for the young deprived of opportunity, for the old, for those who suffer any kind of poverty or marginalisation.
Dear brothers and sisters, the time has come to banish once and for all from the continent every attack against life. No more violence, terrorism and drug-trafficking! No more torture or other forms of abuse! There must be an end to the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty! No more exploitation of the weak, racial discrimination or ghettoes of poverty! Never again! These are intolerable evils which cry out to heaven and call Christians to a different way of living, to a social commitment more in keeping with their faith. We must rouse the consciences of men and women with the Gospel, in order to highlight their sublime vocation as children of God. This will inspire them to build a better America. As a matter of urgency, we must stir up a new springtime of holiness on the continent so that action and contemplation will go hand in hand’.
from a homily given during his Apostolic Journey to America, 23 January 1999
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who hast willed that under the special patronage of the most Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, we should receive an abundant measure of unceasing favours: grant us, thy suppliant people; that as we rejoice to honour her upon earth, so we may enjoy the vision of her in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The feast of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is the promise and the earnest of Christmas Day; our salvation is already in the bud. As the first green shoot heralds the approach of spring, in a world that is frost-bound and seems dead, so in a world of great sinfulness and of utter despair that spotless conception heralds the restoration of man’s innocence. As the shoot gives unfailing promise of the flower which is to spring from it, the Immaculate Conception gives unfailing promise of the Virgin Birth. Life had come into the world again. And it grew there unmarked by human eyes. No angels sang over the hills to celebrate it; no shepherds left their shepherding to come and see; no wise men were beckoned by the stars to witness that prodigy. And yet the first Advent had begun. Our Lady, you see, is the consummation of the Old Testament; with her, the cycle of history begins anew. When God created the first Adam, he made his preparations beforehand; he fashioned a paradise ready for him to dwell in. And when he restored our nature in the second Adam, once more there was a preparation to be made beforehand. He fashioned a Paradise for the second Adam to dwell in, and that Paradise was the body and soul of our blessed Lady, immune from the taint of sin which was the legacy of Adam’s curse. It was winter still in all the world around, but in the quiet home where St Anne gave birth to her daughter, spring had begun’.
from a meditation published in The Tablet, 1939, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who in the foreknowledge of thy Son’s most precious death didst consecrate for him a dwelling-place by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: mercifully grant that she who was preserved from all defilement, may evermore pray for us, until we attain unto thee in purity of heart; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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