The Annunciation. (continued)

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

The Annunciation. (continued)

Who can express how much these simple words of Mary contain! That humble acceptance of the Divine Will, that faith which believes in such a mystery, that obedience which consents to become its instrument, as soon as the angel promises her that her spotless virginity shall be preserved? Mary’s humble modesty is troubled at the salutation of the angel. When he bows down before her, as before a superior being, and calls her full of grace, she is at a loss to conceive what manner of salutation this may be. He announces to her her high destiny, but she only abases herself the more in the presence of God, the higher she is exalted above all creatures by the promise brought to her by the angel. Then, when the magnificent hope is given her of becoming the woman blessed amongst all others, so long promised to the earth, the liberator of the human race, the mother of the Redeemer, she bows her pure face to the earth, and says, “ Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” The time is come for us to learn all that we owe to Mary, to feel how far she has shared with God Himself the great work of our redemption, how much she deserves the wonderful names of Mother of Mercy and Second Eve which the Church has given her. The first woman, through her sin, had caused the ruin of the whole human race; but it was after her fall, when our first parents, leaving happiness behind them, were just entering a land of exile, that Adam, casting a look of grief and hope upon his sorrowful companion, called her Eve, which signifies, the holy Scripture tells us, that she was to be the mother of all the living. What a mystery is this! How could she, who was to be the mother of so many miserable beings, condemned beforehand and through her own fault, to suffering and death, how could she deserve the name of mother of all the living? This name was given to her by the promise of God, which supported our first father in this terrible hour, and shewed him, in the unhappy woman at his side, bowed down with the weight of humiliation and repentance, the mother of a race hostile to the serpent, from which would one day spring the victorious woman who would bruise under her heel the head of this cursed one, and bring back salvation to the earth. “What does this mean?” says St. Epiphanius, one of the most illustrious doctors of the Church; “she had not this beautiful name while she was still in paradise: she is first called the mother of the living after she has been condemned to be for the future the mother of the dead. Hence this great bishop says that she is called thus as a type and figure of the Blessed Virgin, who is the true Mother of all the living, to whom she has given life by the birth of her child.”[1]

Yes, Mary is the true mother of all the living, the second Eve, who has brought salvation and life into the world, to which the first Eve had brought only sorrow and death. “By a woman came death,” says St. Augustine, “by a woman came life: by Eve ruin, by Mary salvation.”

And do not doubt that Mary acted freely in this great work of our salvation. Just as Eve had brought ruin on us all by a free act of her will, when she listened to the words of the serpent, when she suffered that sacrilegious promise of pride, “you shall be as gods,” to enter into her heart, when she stretched forth her hand, gathered the fatal apple, ate of it herself, and gave of it to Adam; so did Mary accept the command of God by a free act of her will when she replied to the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” Eve, through pride, had believed in the deceiving words of the devil, and this faith in the promises of the tempter had brought ruin on us. Mary in humility believes in the words of the angel, and this faith in the promises of God has saved us. A sin of rash credulity, says a doctor of the Church, is effaced by a holy faith.[2]

How can our hearts remain cold at contemplating this wonderful mystery? How can we fail to feel in the depths of our souls, gratitude and love for the God Who lowers Himself to us, “Who takes the humble form of a servant,” Who clothes Himself in our misery and poverty in order to enrich us with His graces, and, together with this, deep devotion and tender gratitude towards that august creature whose purity made her meet to be the Mother of our Saviour, and whose humility, faith, and obedience, were the sources of our salvation? This is the time to feel that inexpressible happiness and peace of which we spoke just now, and the joy of all nature at her awakening, the hymn of gratitude and of love which she sends up to her Creator at the first rays of daylight, is only a feeble type of what our feelings should be when we hear the words of the angel: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” and then that humble acceptance of God’s will with which the gentle Virgin answers: “ Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” Let us all rejoice, for the words on which our salvation depends are pronounced. A pure and brilliant dawn breaks, and the east is lighted up by the first rays of the Eternal Sun. Break out, then, into singing, ye who for so many centuries have sat in darkness. The long night is at last come to an end, and the day is breaking. Its gladsome light shines at length over the horizon of our life, hitherto so sorrowful; and every scene and labour of our pilgrimage is lighted up and transfigured by hope.

For our prayer, let us say to-night, with more fixed attention, deeper reverence, and more tender love, that most beautiful prayer of the Angelic Salutation. For a resolution, let us promise Mary never to pass a day without saying to her, while pondering on the mystery of the Incarnation, the source of all our hopes: “Hail Mary, full of grace;” for, according to the great Bishop Bossuet, Mary’s graces include, not only those which God gave her when He raised so humble a creature to the wonderful dignity of Mother of God, but every grace which we receive through her belongs to her, is part of her glory, and was included in the angel’s words. With him let us hail this pure creature of God, at once virgin and mother; and let us also bless her in the words of the pious woman in the Gospel, who, seeing Jesus, cried out from the midst of the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that gave Thee suck!” Ave Maria!

[1] Bossuet, Elevations sur les Mysteries.

[2] “Quod illa credendo deliquit, hæc credendo delevit.” (Tertullian, quoted by Bossuet.)

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary

Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things


O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.

An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)

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