Blessed Virgin Mary: December 2006 Archives

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Today is Our Lady’s Sunday in Advent.
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.
He wanted to envelop the Christmas mystery
in the gentle presence of the Virgin Mother.

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

The liturgy celebrates the Virgin Mother
before Christmas Day and again eight days after it.
This is the 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.

The Blessed Virgin is present in every part of today’s Mass.
The Introit, for example, is her song before it is ours.
It can only be ours because it was first hers.
“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).

The Collect 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.
It 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.
Of all these mysteries, Mary is the mystical portress
and the keeper of the gate.
This is why the saints teach that love for 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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At the beginning of time,
before the world was,
I was created,
and to all eternity
I shall not cease to be (Ecclus 24:14).

How I love this sixeenth century Mexican depiction of the Eternal Father painting the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Immaculate Conception! The Eternal Father is deep in conversation with His Son; between them flutters the Holy Spirit, the living bond and perfection of their love. Note the way the artist sought to show he wings of the dove in movement.

The Eternal Father Himself, the Divine Artist, is holding His palette; the palette bears the roses that He is applying to the Virgin's robe. The gaze of the Son, with an ineffable tenderness, is fixed on the Face of the Father. "I was with Him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times" (Pr 8:30).

In the bottom left hand corner of the painting is the Angel of the stars and moon. In the image of the Mother of God he contemplates the stars and the moon that he has given at the Father's bidding. All around the painting are cherubs, happy to participate in the Divine project.

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino

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December 8
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 97: 1, 2-3ab, 3cdd-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

A Song From the Womb

“Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice He has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). A song intoned from the womb! The Church takes the jubilant words of the prophet Isaiah and places them in the mouth of the Immaculate Conception, the Child full of grace just conceived in the womb of Saint Anne.

Prelude to the Magnificat

Gaudens, gaudebo in Domino.” “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord.” If you would understand the text, you must sing it as the Church sings it today. The exegesis of the text is in its ravishing third mode melody; it soars pure as crystal in a kind of ecstatic cry of undiluted joy in God.

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Mary herself intones the first chant of the Mass today: a kind of prelude to her Magnificat. Already — just conceived — the Child Mary begins to sing, and with her the whole Church. On no other feast of the year does the liturgy allow the Virgin Mary to open the Mass by singing in the first person singular. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice” (Is 61:10). Mary’s message, from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception, is one of joy in God.

The Tree

The joy of the Immaculate Conception springs from the mystery of the Cross. The Collect says that Mary was “preserved from all stain” in foresight of the death of Christ on the Cross. Here enters the figure of the tree glimpsed in today’s First Lesson from Genesis. The tree of Eve’s mourning and weeping becomes for Mary the tree of “an unutterable and exalted joy” (1 P 1:8). Mary is the first to taste of the sweet fruit of the Tree of Life; Mary is the first to sing of the joy of the Cross. There is an extraordinary medieval painting that shows the Tree of Life with Mary on one side and Eve on the other. Eve, completely naked, is giving the bitter fruit of her sin to her own communicants in evil. From her side of the tree a skull looks out, grimacing in death. On the other side of the tree is Mary, crowned and clothed in grace and beauty. She takes pure white hosts from among the branches of the tree and, like a priest distributing Holy Communion, places them in the mouths of her own communicants in eternal life. In the branches of Mary’s side of the tree there is a crucifix. The Face of the Crucified is turned toward those who partake of the fruit of the Cross.

Tota Pulchra Es, O Maria

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Mary of Great Beauty

Some weeks ago, I stopped to browse at Cutler’s on Broadway, New Haven’s best and biggest record shop. For me, a visit to Cutler’s is as exhilarating as a visit to the library or the art gallery. So much to learn. So much to discover. Among the display of bestselling new releases what did see? A CD by the women known as The Anonymous 4 entitled: “La bele Marie,” — The Beautiful Mary. The cover features a 14th century Virgin and Child in limestone. The Virgin has a radiant smile; so too does the Child Jesus who, incidentally, appears to be holding a pet squirrel on a leash. The smiles of the Mother and Child are ravishing. The beauty of holiness radiates from them. Opening the the performance notes, my eyes went immediately to the epigraph: “Shining star, moon without darkness, sun giving great light, Mary of great beauty.” I was stunned. With young Yale students bustling all about me, with something quite secular playing from the loudspeakers, with the noises of Broadway in the background, there was a moment of Marian grace. “Mary of great beauty.” So long as there is room for Mary in the world, there will be room for beauty — and room for beauty means space for grace.

O Marie, Ma Reine et ma Mère

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Today is the anniversary of the death of Monsieur le Chanoine Louis François CROSET. Born at Annecy-le-Vieux in 1914, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Annecy on 7 June 1941. He exercised the sacred ministry in the diocese of Annecy from 1941 until 1952, and in the diocese of Bayonne from 1952-1990. He died on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 7 December 1990.

Père Croset's priestly life was marked by great suffering, by an extraordinary love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by a wonderful spiritual fruitfulness. I was privileged to be numbered among the many souls touched by his priesthood. At the end of his life Père Croset lived in a residence for elderly priests in Pau, not far from Lourdes. A number of years ago he drove me to Lourdes where, together in the February rain, we stood before the grotto and prayed this Act of Abandonment to the Blessed Virgin. Père Croset composed it in 1952 in a moment of intense moral suffering and darkness.

O Marie, ma Reine et ma Mère,
reçois en tes mains mon Acte d'Abandon
à la volonté du Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ,
afin qu'à l'exemple de son Fils bien aimé
et par le secours de ta Tendresse,
je laisse conduire ma vie par l'Esprit-Saint
selon les mysterieux desseins de la Trinité.

O Mary, my Queen and my Mother,
receive into your hands
my Act of Abandonment
to the will of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that, following the example of His beloved Son
and with the help of your tenderness,
I may let my life be directed by the Holy Spirit
according to the mysterious designs of the Trinity.

Aide-moi à livrer sans réserve tout mon être à Dieu
dans la clarté obscure de la foi,
l'élan austère de l'Espérance
et l'étreinte crucifiante de l'Amour.

Help me to surrender without reserve
my whole being to God
in the dark brightness of Faith,
the austere élan of Hope,
and the crucifying embrace of Love.

Je veux m'enfoncer en ton Coeur Immaculé
pour y devenir l'hostie que tu donneras à Jésus,
afin qu'en son sacrifice
Il me consacre à la gloire de son Père
et à la fécondité de l'Eglise son Épouse.
Amen.

I want to hide myself within your Immaculate Heart
to become there the host
that you will give to Jesus,
so that He may consecrate me in His sacrifice
to the glory of His Father
and to the fecundity of His Bride the Church.
Amen.

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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