Blessed Virgin Mary: December 2008 Archives

Secundum Verbum Tuum

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For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne. (Wisdom 18:14-15)

The Word in the Night

The nocturnal or pre-dawn Office of Vigils (or Matins) is, without any doubt, the Hour most expressive of the mystery of Advent. The Word arrives enveloped in a deep silence and, in that silence, visits the hearts that await His coming.

The Church's Blanket of Prayer

It is comforting to recall that the Church in her wisdom has woven a blanket of prayer that covers all the hours of the night. The great Orders of the Church relay each other in keeping watch for the coming of the Bridegroom. Should the Night Office ever cease being celebrated in monasteries, which God forbid, the world that night will die of the cold. The repartition of the nightwatch is, more or less approximately, as follows. In some instances, individuals may prolong the Night Office in solitary prayer.

From 9:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. -- Carmelites and some Benedictines
From 11:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. -- Carthusians
From 12:00 midnight until 1:30 a.m. -- Poor Clares, Dominican Nuns, Franciscan Friars of certain reforms, and some Passionists in Greater Solitude
From 2:00 a.m. until 3:15 a.m. -- Benedictines of the Primitive Observance
From 3:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. -- Trappists
From 4:00 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. -- Cistercians
From 5:00 a.m. until 6:30 a.m. -- Benedictines

Today's Night Office

This morning's Office of Vigils contained two jewels the first was the responsory Annuntiatum est per Gabrielem after the Third Lesson of the First Nocturn:

He Entered Through the Virgin's Ear

The Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary the entrance of the King. * And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door. V. Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. R. And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door. V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. R. And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door.

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The Reading at the Second Nocturn was taken from Saint Bernard's stupendous homily Super Missus Est:

By the Virtue of the Holy Ghost

You have heard, O Virgin, that you are to conceive and bring forth a Son, and that it will not be through the power of man, but by the virtue of the Holy Ghost.

Waiting for a Word of Mercy

The angel awaits your reply, for it is time that he should return to God, Who sent him. We, too, are waiting, O Lady, for a word of mercy we, who are groaning under the sentence of condemnation. See, the price of our salvation is offered to you ; if you consent, we shall at once be delivered. By the Eternal Word of God we were all created, and behold we die. By your short answer we shall be refreshed and recalled to life. Adam, with all his race Adam, a weeping exile from Paradise, implores it of you. Abraham entreats you, David beseeches you. This is the object of the burning desires of the holy fathers, of your fathers, who are still dwelling in the region of the shades of death. Behold the entire human race prostrate at your feet in expectation.

Hasten, O Lady

And rightly, for on your word depend the consolation of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, the freedom of the condemned, the salvation of your entire race, of all the children of Adam. Hasten, then, O Lady, to give your answer; hasten to speak the word so longed for by all on earth, in limbo, and in heaven. Yea, the King and Lord of all things, Who has greatly desired your beauty, desires as eagerly your word of consent, by which He has purposed to save the world. He whom you have pleased by your silence will now be more gratified by your reply.

Mary, the Much-Longed-For-Virgin

Hark ! He calls to you from heaven: "most beautiful among women, give me to hear your voice." If you let Him hear your voice, He will enable you to see our salvation. And is not this what you have sought for, what you have prayed for night and day with sighs and tears? Why, then, delay? Are you the happy one to whom it has been promised, or "look we for another "? Yes, you indeed are that most fortunate one. You are the promised virgin, the expected virgin, the much-longed-for virgin, through whom your holy father Jacob, when about to die, rested his hope of eternal life, saying : " I will look for thy salvation, O Lord."

Answer the Word, Receive the Word

You, O Mary, are that virgin in whom and by whom God Himself, our King before all ages, determined to operate our salvation in the midst of the earth. Why do you humbly expect from another what is offered to you, and will soon be manifested through yourself if you will but yield your consent and speak the word ? Answer, then, quickly to the angel yes, through the angel give your consent to your God. Answer the word, receive the Word. Utter yours, conceive the Divine. Speak the word that is transitory, and embrace the Word that is everlasting. Why do you delay? Why are you fearful?

Courage and Confidence

Believe confess receive. Let humility put on courage, and timidity confidence. It is certainly by no means fitting that virginal simplicity should forget prudence. Yet in this one case only the prudent virgin need not fear presumption, because, though modesty shone forth in her silence, it is now more necessary that her devotion and obedience should be revealed by her speech.

He Stands at the Gate and Knocks

Open, Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith, your lips to compliance, your bosom to your Creator. Behold, the desired of all nations stands at the gate and knocks. Oh, suppose He were to pass by while you delay ! How would you begin again with sorrow to seek Him whom your soul loveth ! Arise run open ! Arise by faith, run by devotion, open by acceptance. Mary speaks. " Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word."

Our Lady in Advent

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This morning at Vigils the Second Reading was from a homily by Abbot Geoffrey of Admont. It was wonderfully suitable, coming after the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Loreto, and before that of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

All the patriarchs and prophets . . . being illumined by the Spirit of God, were able to see future events in advance, and by their discourses made known and loved the grace of salvation that, through Christ and His blessed Mother was to come into the world.

Note well that it is through Christ and His blessed Mother that the grace of salvation comes into the world. One detects the patristic leit-motif of Christ the New Adam, and of Mary the New Eve. Then, the Abbot of Admont goes on to present the Canticle of Canticles. I love this section. It echoes what Isaac of Stella says elsewhere.

From among these ancients, one very great sage (sapientissimus) Salomon, wrote a book to the praise and honour of Our Lady Mary: it is the Canticle of Canticles. While it can be applied to the holy Church and to every faithful soul, it is especially fitting to her by whom the Salvation of the world appeared to believers.

Finally, he says:

Nam sicut ista sollemnitas specialiter est Domini nostri Iesu Christi, ita et specialitedr est eiusdem Genetricis suae, cum qua ipse Dominus et Redemptor salutem humani generis operari voluit.
Even if the coming solemnity belongs especially to Our Lord Jesus Christ, it also belongs especially to His Mother, with whom Our Lord and Redeemer Himself willed to work the salvation of the human race.

This twelfth century text witnesses compellingly, I think, to the Marian doctrine of co-redemption. Geoffrey of Admont, a monk of the Benedictine Congregation of Hirsau, was abbot of the monastery of Admont in central Austria from 1138 until his death in 1165. About two hundred of his homilies have been preserved.

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The mystery of the Face of Christ is a constant motif in the writings and teachings of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Again, at the Angelus on the Second Sunday of Advent, he spoke of the Face of Jesus and of Mary Immaculate, Pure Reflection of the beauty that shines from the Face of her Son.

Beloved, in Mary Immaculate we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the Face of Christ. In Mary, this beauty is totally pure, humble, free of all pride and presumption. The Virgin showed herself in this way to St. Bernadette 150 years ago in Lourdes, and in this way she is venerated in so many shrines.

In Thanksgiving

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Msgr Brankin Writes:

May I add to all the friends and readers of Vultus Christi just how terrible this accident was? Fr. Kirby's car spun out of control, crossing three lanes of the most heavily travelled expressway in the city, and continuing its slide, cross over an exit ramp (fully 6 lanes). Flying backwards, Father Kirby's car flew backward off the road into a ditch where it landed in a concrete drainage culvert, bounced out, and came to rest about 15 feet away.

When I arrived at the scene, I was astounded that Fr. Kirby was not killed, not even hurt, not so much as a scratch.

You must understand that this was certainly a miracle. There is no way that I could imagine a car tailspinning out of control through six lanes of traffic without hitting or being hit by another car. I do not believe that Father could have flown off the road into the culvert and not broken his legs and hips.

Let me say that Our Lady's hand was very much protecting Fr. Kirby against the snares and dangers laid by the Devil.

Msgr Patrick Brankin

And My Account

Last night, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, at about 9:00, while driving home from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, I had a spectacular automobile accident. It would seem that the surface of the highway was slippery due to a very light mist of rain. I completely lost control of the car. It careened across several lanes of oncoming traffic, went head on toward an exit sign, and then spun around to fly off an embankment into a ditch.

I was saying the rosary at the time of the accident. In my pocket was an image of the Servant of God Father Lukas Etlin, that Father Abbot Marcel Rooney had just given me. (Father Lukas, a monk of Conception Abbey, born in Switzerland in 1864, died on December 16, 1927 in Stanberry, Missouri, as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.)

Immediately, upon "landing," I looked to make sure that I still had my beads! Then, calmly, I called Msgr. Brankin and informed him of what had happened. I turned off the motor of the car and walked to the top of the embankment. Msgr. Brankin and Bishop Slattery were there within a few minutes. Someone driving by apparently called the Tulsa police. A very kind officer arrived on the scene. He could not have been more professional or more solicitous. The car is a total wreck, but I emerged from the accident without so much as a bump or a scratch.

I am certain that I was protected by the the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God, conceived without sin, and by the intercession of Father Lukas Etlin, and I offer heartfelt and humble thanks.

Maria, Rosa Mystica

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Prayer, Reparation, Penance for Priests

Sixty-one years ago, in the spring of 1947 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pierina Gilli, a nurse, in the chapel of the hospital of Montichiari, Italy. The Mother of God asked for prayer for the sanctification of priests and consecrated souls. She showed her Immaculate Heart pierced by three swords: 1) the unworthy celebration of Holy Mass and reception of Holy Communion; 2) apostasy from the priestly state and the consecrated life; and 3) betrayal of the Faith. Our Lady appealed for three practices: prayer, reparation, and penance. Given my own "vocation within a vocation" and my work for the sanctification of priests, I find the message of the Madonna of Montichiari, the Rosa Mystica, particularly compelling.

An Hour of Grace

The Mother of God appeared eleven times to Pierina. On December 8, 1947 she requested that an Hour of Grace be observed every December 8th from noon until one o'clock. "This Hour of Grace," she said, "will produce great and numerous conversions. Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love." Our Lady further recommended that at the beginning of this Hour of Grace we pray Psalm 50 (51), the Miserere, three times, with arms extended. In the discernment of so-called private revelations, one of the key criteria is whether or not they harmonize with the sacred liturgy of the Church, her lex credendi or rule of belief. The recitation of the Miserere, requested by Our Lady corresponds perfectly to the petition that we make in today's liturgical Collect:

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of Thy Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for Thy Son
and, foreseeing His death on the Cross,
preserved her from all stain;
grant that we too, by her intercession,
may come into Thy presence with pure hearts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

In the Miserere, we pray:

Have mercy on me, O God, as thou art ever rich in mercy;
in the abundance of thy compassion, blot out the record of my misdeeds.
Wash me clean, cleaner yet, from my guilt,
purge me of my sin,
the guilt which I freely acknowledge,
the sin which is never lost to my sight.

And then:

Sprinkle me with a wand of hyssop, and I shall be clean;
washed, I shall be whiter than snow;
tidings send me of good news and rejoicing,
and the body that lies in the dust shall thrill with pride.
Turn thy eyes away from my sins,
blot out the record of my guilt;
my God, bring a clean heart to birth within me;
breathe new life, true life, into my being.

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Finally, Our Lady chose to reveal herself at Montichiari under the ancient title of Mystical Rose, Rosa Mystica. Listen to what the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote concerning this title:

MARY is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God's grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the Queen of them. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.
But moreover, she is the Mystical, or hidden Rose; for mystical means hidden. How is she now "hidden" from us more than are other saints? What means this singular appellation, which we apply to her specially? The answer to this question introduces us to a third reason for believing in the reunion of her sacred body to her soul, and its assumption into heaven soon after her death, instead of its lingering in the grave until the General Resurrection at the last day.
It is this:--if her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? how comes it that it is hidden from us? why do we not hear of her tomb as being here or there? why are not pilgrimages made to it? why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Is it not even a natural instinct which makes us reverent towards the places where our dead are buried? We bury our great men honourably.
St. Peter speaks of the sepulchre of David as known in his day, though he had died many hundred years before. When our Lord's body was taken down from the Cross, He was placed in an honourable tomb. Such too had been the honour already paid to St. John Baptist, his tomb being spoken of by St. Mark as generally known. Christians from the earliest times went from other countries to Jerusalem to see the holy places. And, when the time of persecution was over, they paid still more attention to the bodies of the Saints, as of St. Stephen, St. Mark, St. Barnabas, St. Peter, St. Paul, and other Apostles and Martyrs. These were transported to great cities, and portions of them sent to this place or that. Thus, from the first to this day it has been a great feature and characteristic of the Church to be most tender and reverent towards the bodies of the Saints.
Now, if there was anyone who more than all would be preciously taken care of, it would be Our Lady. Why then do we hear nothing of the Blessed Virgin's body and its separate relics? Why is she thus the hidden Rose? Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her--her who was the Queen of Martyrs and the Queen of Saints, who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Why then is she thus the hidden Rose? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.

Ave, liber incomprehensus

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At Matins this morning I listened, enchanted, to Saint Epiphanius' rapturous praises of the All-Holy Mother of God. The witness of Saint Epiphanius is precious: born in Palestine of Jewish parentage in about the year 310, he went to Egypt as a youth to pursue there his monastic vocation. In 367 he was called out of the desert to serve the Church as bishop of Constantia (Salamis) in Cyprus. Sensitive to the least whiff of heresy, he was ever ready to defend the Catholic Orthodox faith. He died whilst returning from Constantinople to Cyprus in 402. Listen to him praise Our Lady. What would happen, I wonder, if a priest were to preach today with such lyricism and holy passion?

More Beautiful than the Cherubim

What shall I say,
what praise shall I make of the glorious and holy Virgin?
She surpasses all beings, God alone excepted;
she is by nature more beautiful than the cherubim, the seraphim,
and the whole army of heaven;
neither heavenly nor earthly tongue are sufficient to praise her,
not even that of the angels.

Immaculate Lily, Unfading Rose

Rejoice! Thou full of grace, gate of the heavens;
carried upward in his discourse,
the author of the Canticle wrote of thee
when he exclaimed:
Thou art a garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain
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The Virgin is this immaculate lily,
the unfading rose who engendered Christ.
O Holy Godbearer, immaculate ewe,
thou hast brought forth Christ the Lamb, the Word of thee incarnate!

Ever-flowing Wellspring of Sweetness

Immense is the grace of this holy Virgin.
Wherefore does Gabriel address her first with this greeting:
Hail, full of grace, shining heaven!
Hail, full of grace, adorned with numberless virtues!
Hail, full of grace, thou golden urn containing the heavenly manna!
Hail, full of grace, thou who quenchest those who thirst
from the ever-flowing wellspring of sweetness!

Purple Fit for Kings

Hail, O most holy and immaculate Mother,
who didst bring forth Christ, He who before thee is.
Hail, O purple fit for kings, thou has clothed the King of heaven and earth!
Hail, O book incomprehensible: thou hast displayed the Word, the Son of the Father,
for all the world to read!

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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