Ave, Maria, gratia plena

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

Sunday of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent belongs to Our Blessed Lady. Venerable Pope Paul VI, influenced, no doubt, by the ancient practice of the venerable Church of Milan, desired that the Fourth Sunday of Advent should become a veritable festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As he intimates in Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI wanted to envelop the Christmas mystery in the gentle presence of the Virgin Mother.

By dedicating the Fourth Sunday of Advent to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by restoring to January 1st, the feast of the Circumcision, its ancient title of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Venerable Pope Paul VI sought to give us the Infant Christ, the Redeemer of the world, circled round by the tenderness of the Blessed Virgin.

Our Lady: Indispensable to the Advent of Christ

The sacred liturgy celebrates the Virgin Mother before Christmas Day and again eight days after it. This is Mother Church's way of teaching us that the Blessed Virgin Mary is indispensable to every advent of Christ.

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

Dew From Above

The Blessed Virgin is present, not only in the Gospel today, but in every part of today's Mass. The Introit, Rorate, for example, is Our Lady's song before it is ours. It can only be our prayer because it was first the prayer of her Immaculate Heart. "Send down dew from above, you heavens, and let the skies pour down upon us the rain we long for, Him, the Just One: may He, the Saviour, spring from the closed womb of the earth" (Is 45:8). There is no prayer that does not begin in an intense longing for the dew from above. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill" (Mt 5:6).

Similarly, the magnificent Offertory Antiphon, Ave Maria, gratia plena (Lk 1:28) and the Communion Antiphon, Ecce, virgo concipiet (Is 7:14) invite us to conversation with the Virgin Mother of the Lord, to a contemplative admiration of her beauty, and to the imitation of her "Fiat". "Be it done to me according to thy word" (Lk 1:38).

Thy Grace Into Our Hearts

Today's Collect in the reformed Missal is familiar and worn like a thing much loved because it is the prayer that, three times each day, concludes the Little Office of the Incarnation that we call the Angelus.

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

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

Portress of the Mysteries of Christ

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

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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