The Liturgical Year
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
The Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
At length, on the distant horizon, rises, with a soft and radiant light, the aurora of the Sun which has been so long desired. The happy Mother of the Messias was to be born before the Messias Himself; and this is the day of the Conception of Mary. The earth already possesses a first pledge of the divine mercy; the Son of Man is near at hand. Two true Israelites, Joachim and Anne, noble branches of the family of David, find their union, after a long barrenness, made fruitful by the divine omnipotence. Glory be to God, who has been mindful of His promises, and who deigns to announce, from the high heavens, the end of the deluge of iniquity, by sending upon the earth the sweet white dove that bears the tidings of peace!
The feast of the blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception is the most solemn of all those which the Church celebrates during the holy time of Advent; and if the first part of the cycle had to offer us the commemoration of some one of the mysteries of Mary, there was none whose object could better harmonize with the spirit of the Church in this mystic season of expectation. Let us, then, celebrate this solemnity with joy; for the Conception of Mary tells us that the Birth of Jesus is not far off.
The intention of the Church, in this feast, is not only to celebrate the- anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the original stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother’s womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only not contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature. The Church with her infallible authority, declared, by the lips of Pius IX, that this article of her faith had been revealed by God Himself. The Definition was received with enthusiasm by the whole of Christendom, and the eighth of December of the year 1854 was thus made one of the most memorable days of the Church’s history.
It was due to His own infinite sanctity that God should suspend, in this instance, the law which His divine justice had passed upon all the children of Adam. The relations which Mary was to bear to the Divinity, could not be reconciled with her undergoing the humiliation of this punishment. She was not only daughter of the eternal Father; she was destined also to become the very Mother of the Son, and the veritable bride of the Holy Ghost. Nothing defiled could be permitted to enter, even for an instant of time, into the creature that was thus predestined to contract such close relations with the adorable Trinity ; not a speck could be permitted to tarnish in Mary that perfect purity which the infinitely holy God requires even in those who are one day to be admitted to enjoy the sight of His divine majesty in heaven; in a word, as the great Doctor St. Anselm says, ‘it was just that this holy Virgin should be adorned with the greatest purity which can be conceived after that of God Himself, since God the Father was to give to her, as her Child, that only-begotten Son, whom He loved as Himself, as being begotten to Him from His own bosom; and this in such a manner, that the selfsame Son of God was, by nature, the Son of both God the Father and this blessed Virgin. This same Son chose her to be substantially His Mother; and the Holy Ghost willed that in her womb He would operate the conception and birth of Him from whom He Himself proceeded.’ (De conceptu virginali, cap. xviii.)
Moreover, the close ties which were to unite the Son of God with Mary, and which would elicit from Him the tenderest love and the most filial reverence for her, had been present to the divine thought from all eternity: and the conclusion forces itself upon us that therefore the divine Word had for this His future Mother a love infinitely greater than that which He bore to all His other creatures. Mary’s honour was infinitely dear to Him, because she was to be His Mother, chosen to be so by His eternal and merciful decrees. The Son’s love protected the Mother. She, indeed, in her sublime humility, willingly submitted to whatever the rest of God’s creatures had brought on themselves, and obeyed every tittle of those laws which were never meant for her: but that humiliating barrier, which confronts every child of Adam at the first moment of his existence, and keeps him from light and grace until he shall have been regenerated by a new birth—oh! this could not be permitted to stand in Mary’s way, her Son forbade it.
The eternal Father would not do less for the second Eve than He had done for the first, who was created, as was also the first Adam, in the state of original justice, which she afterwards forfeited by sin. The Son of God would not permit that the woman, from whom He was to take the nature of Man, should be deprived of that gift which He had given even to her who was the mother of sin. The Holy Ghost, who was to overshadow Mary and produce Jesus within her by His divine operation, would not permit that foul stain, in which we are all conceived, to rest, even for an instant, on this His Bride. All men were to contract the sin of Adam; the sentence was universal; but God’s own Mother is not included. God who is the author of that law, God who was free to make it as He willed, had power to exclude from it her whom He had predestined to be His own in so many ways; He could exempt her, and it was just that He should exempt her; therefore, He did it.
Was it not this grand exemption which God Himself foretold, when the guilty pair, whose children we all are, appeared before Him in the garden of Eden? In the anathema which fell upon the serpent, there was included a promise of mercy to us. ‘I will put enmities,’ said the Lord, ‘between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head.’ (Gen. iii. 15. 2) Thus was salvation promised the human race under the form of a victory over satan; and this victory is to be gained by the Woman, and she will gain it for us also. Even granting, as some read this text, that it is the Son of the Woman that is alone to gain this victory, the enmity between the Woman and the serpent is clearly expressed, and she, the Woman, with her own foot, is to crush the head of the hated serpent. The second Eve is to be worthy of the second Adam, conquering and not to be conquered. The human race is one day to be avenged not only by God made Man, but also by the Woman miraculously exempted from every stain of sin, in whom the primeval creation, which was in justice and holiness, (Eph. iv. 24.) will thus reappear, just as though the original sin had never been committed.
Raise up your heads, then, ye children of Adam, and shake off your chains! This day the humiliation which weighed you down is annihilated. Behold! Mary, who is of the same flesh and blood as yourselves, has seen the torrent of sin, which swept along all the generations of mankind, flow back at her presence and not touch her: the infernal dragon has turned away his head, not daring to breathe his venom upon her; the dignity of your origin is given to her in all its primitive grandeur. This happy day, then, on which the original purity of your race is renewed, must be a feast to you. The second Eve is created ; and from her own blood (which, with the exception of the element of sin, is the same as that which makes you to be the children of Adam), she is shortly to give you the God-Man, who proceeds from her according to the flesh, as He proceeds from the Father according to the eternal generation.
And how can we do less than admire and love the incomparable purity of Mary in her Immaculate Conception, when we hear even God, who thus prepared her to become His Mother, saying to her, in the divine Canticle, these words of complacent love: ‘Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!’ (Cant. iv. 7.) It is the God of all holiness that here speaks; that eye, which sees all things, finds not a vestige, not a shadow of sin; therefore does He delight in her, and admire in her that gift of His own condescending munificence. We cannot be surprised after this, that Gabriel, when he came down from heaven to announce the Incarnation to her, should be full of admiration at the sight of that purity, whose beginning was so glorious and whose progress was immeasurable; and that this blessed spirit should bow down profoundly before this young Maid of Nazareth, and salute her with, ‘Hail, 0 full of grace!’ (St. Luke i. 28.) And who is this Gabriel? An Archangel, that lives amidst the grandest magnificences of God’s creation, amidst all the gorgeous riches of heaven; who is brother to the Cherubim and Seraphim, to the Thrones and Dominations; whose eye is accustomed to gaze on those nine angelic choirs with their dazzling brightness of countless degrees of light and grace ; he has found on earth, in a creature of a nature below that of angels, the fullness of grace, of that grace which had been given to the angels measuredly. This fullness of grace was in Mary from the very first instant of her existence. She is the future Mother of God, and she was ever holy, ever pure, ever Immaculate.
This truth of Mary’s Immaculate Conception— which was revealed to the apostles by the divine Son of Mary, inherited by the Church, taught by the holy fathers, believed by each generation of the Christian people with an ever increasing explicitness—was implied in the very notion of a Mother of God. To believe that Mary was Mother of God, was implicitly to believe that she, on whom this sublime dignity was conferred, had never been defiled with the slightest stain of sin, and that God had bestowed upon her an absolute exemption from sin. But now the Immaculate Conception of Mary rests on an explicit definition dictated by the Holy Ghost. Peter has spoken by the mouth of Pius; and when Peter has spoken, every Christian should believe; for the Son of God has said : ‘ I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not.’ (St. Luke xxii. 32.) And again: ‘The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.’ (St. John xiv. 26.)
The Symbol of our faith has therefore received not a new truth, but a new light on a truth which was previously the object of the universal belief. On that great day of the definition, the infernal serpent was again crushed beneath the victorious foot of the Virgin-Mother, and the Lord graciously gave us the strongest pledge of His mercy. He still loves this guilty earth, since He has deigned to enlighten it with one of the brightest rays of His Mother’s glory. How this earth of ours exulted! The present generation will never forget the enthusiasm with which the entire universe received the tidings of the definition. It was an event of mysterious importance which thus marked this second half of our century; and we shall look forward to the future with renewed confidence ; for if the Holy Ghost bids us tremble for the days when truths are diminished among the children of men, (Ps. xi. 2.) He would, consequently, have us look on those times as blessed by God in which we receive an increase of truth; an increase both in light and authority.
The Church, even before the solemn proclamation of the grand dogma, kept the feast of this eighth day of December; which was, in reality, a profession of her faith. It is true that the feast was not called the Immaculate Conception, but simply the Conception of Mary. But the fact of such a feast being instituted and kept, was an unmistakable expression of the faith of Christendom in that truth. St. Bernard and the angelical doctor, St. Thomas, both teach that the Church cannot celebrate the feast of what is not holy; the Conception of Mary, therefore, was holy and immaculate, since the Church has, for ages past, honoured it with a special feast. The Nativity of the same holy Virgin is kept as a solemnity in the Church, because Mary was born full of grace ; therefore, had the first moment of Mary’s existence been one of sin, as is that of all the other children of Adam, it never could have been made the subject of the reverence of the Church. Now, there are few feasts so generally and so firmly established in the Church as this which we are keeping to-day.
The Greek Church, which, more easily than the Latin, could learn what were the pious traditions of the east, kept this feast even in the sixth century, as is evident from the ceremonial or, as it is called, the Type, of St. Sabas. In the west, we find it established in the Gothic Church of Spain as far back as the eighth century. A celebrated ^calendar which was engraved on marble, in the ninth century, for the use of the Church of Naples, attests that it had already been introduced there. Paul the deacon, secretary to the emperor Charlemagne, and afterwards monk at Monte-Cassino, composed a celebrated hymn on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception; we will insert this piece later on, as it is given in the manuscript copies of Monte-Cassino and Benevento. In 1066, the feast was first established in England, in consequence of the pious Abbot Helsyn’s being miraculously preserved from shipwreck; and shortly after that, was made general through the whole island by the zeal of the great St. Anselm, monk of the Order of St. Benedict, and archbishop of Canterbury. From England it passed into Normandy, and took root in France. We find it sanctioned in Germany, in a council held in 1049, at which St. Leo IX was present; in Navarre, 1090, at the abbey of Irach; in Belgium, at Liege, in 1142. Thus did the Churches of the west testify their faith in this mystery, by accepting its feast, which is the expression of faith.
Lastly, it was adopted by Rome herself, and her doing so rendered the united testimony of her children, the other Churches, more imposing than ever. It was Pope Sixtus IV who, in the year 1476, published the decree of the feast of our Lady’s Conception for the city of St. Peter. In the next century, 1568, St. Pius V published the universal edition of the Roman breviary, and in its calendar was inserted this feast as one of those Christian solemnities which the faithful are every year bound to observe. It was not from Rome that the devotion of the Catholic world to this mystery received its first impulse; she sanctioned it by her liturgical authority, just as she has confirmed it by her doctrinal authority in these our own days.
The three great Catholic nations of Europe, Germany, France, and Spain, vied with each other in their devotion to this mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. France, by her king Louis XIV, obtained from Clement IX that this feast should be kept with an octave throughout the kingdom; which favour was afterwards extended to the universal Church by Innocent XII. For centuries previous to this, the theological faculty of Paris had always exacted from its professors the oath that they would defend this privilege of Mary; a pious practice which continued as long as the university itself.
As regards Germany, the emperor Ferdinand III, in 1647, ordered a splendid monument to be erected in the great square of Vienna. It is covered with emblems and figures symbolical of Mary’s victory over sin, and on the top is the statue of the Immaculate Queen, with this solemn and truly Catholic inscription:
TO GOD, INFINITE IN GOODNESS AND POWER,
KING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH,
BY WHOM KINGS REIGN;
TO THE VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD
CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN,
BY WHOM PRINCES COMMAND,
WHOM AUSTRIA, DEVOUTLY LOVING, HOLDS AS HER
QUEEN AND PATRON;
FERDINAND HI., EMPEROR,
CONFIDES, GIVES, CONSECRATES HIMSELF,
CHILDREN, PEOPLE, ARMIES, PROVINCES,
AND ALL THAT IS HIS,
AND ERECTS IN ACCOMPLISHMENT OF A VOW
AS A PERPETUAL MEMORIAL.
(D. O. M. supremo coeli terrseque imperatori, per quern reges regnant; Virgini Deiparse Immaculate Conceptse, per quam principes impcrant, in peculiarem Dominam, Austria Patrcnam, singulari pietate susceptse, se, liberos, populos, exercitus, provincias, omnia denique conndit, donat, consecrat, et in perpetuam rei memoriam statuam hano ex voto ponit Ferdinandus III. Augustus.)
But the zeal of Spain for the privilege of the holy Mother of God surpassed that of all other nations. In the year 1398, John I, king of Arragon, issued a chart in which he solemnly places his person and kingdom under the protection of Mary Immaculate. Later on, kings Philip III and Philip IV sent ambassadors to Rome, soliciting, in their names, the solemn definition, which heaven reserved, in its mercy, for our days. King Charles III, in the eighteenth century, obtained permission from Clement XIII, that the Immaculate Conception should be the patronal feast of Spain. The people of Spain, which is so justly called the Catholic kingdom, put over the door, or on the front of their houses, a tablet with the words of Mary’s privilege written on it; and when they meet, they greet each other with an expression in honour of the same dear mystery. It was a Spanish nun, Mary of Jesus, abbess of the convent of the Immaculate Conception of Agreda, who wrote God’s mystic City, which inspired Murillo with his Immaculate Conception, the masterpiece of the Spanish school.
But, whilst thus mentioning the different nations which have been foremost in their zeal for this article of our holy faith, the Immaculate Conception, it were unjust to pass over the immense share which the seraphic Order, the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned John Duns Scotus! And when at length the great day of the definition of the Immaculate Conception came, how justly merited was that grand audience, which
the Vicar of Christ granted to the Franciscan Order, and with which closed the pageant of the glorious solemnity! Pius IX received from the hands of the children of St. Francis a tribute of homage and thankfulness, which the Scotist school, after having fought four hundred years in defence of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, now presented to the Pontiff. In the presence of the fifty-four Cardinals, forty-two archbishops, and ninety-two bishops; before an immense concourse of people that filled St. Peter’s, and had united in prayer, begging the assistance of the Spirit of truth; the Vicar of Christ had just pronounced the decision which so many ages had hoped to hear. The Pontiff had offered the holy Sacrifice on the Confession of St. Peter. He had crowned the statue of the Immaculate Queen with a splendid diadem. Carried on his lofty throne, and wearing his triple crown, he had reached the portico of the basilica; there he is met by the two representatives of St. Francis: they prostrate before the throne : the triumphal procession halts : and first, the General of the Friars Minor Observantines advances, and presents to the holy Father a branch of silver lilies : he is followed by the General of the Conventual Friars, holding in his hand a branch of silver roses. The Pope graciously accepted both. The lilies and the roses were symbolical of Mary’s purity and love; the whiteness of the silver was the emblem of the lovely brightness of that orb, on which is reflected the light of the Sun ; for, as the Canticle says of Mary, ‘she is beautiful as the moon.’ (Cant. vi. 9.) The Pontiff was overcome with emotion at these gifts of the family of the seraphic patriarch, to which we might justly apply what was said of the banner of the Maid of Orleans: ‘It had stood the brunt of the battle; it deserved to share in the glory of the victory.’ And thus ended the glories of that grand morning of the eighth of December, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.
It is thus, 0 thou the humblest of creatures, that thy Immaculate Conception has been glorified on earth! And how could it be other than a great joy to men, that thou art honoured by them, thou the aurora of the Sun of justice? Dost thou not bring them the tidings of their salvation? Art not thou, O Mary, that bright ray of hope, which suddenly bursts forth in the deep abyss of the world’s misery? What should we have been without Jesus? And thou art His dearest Mother, the holiest of God’s creatures, the purest of virgins, and our own most loving Mother!
How thy gentle light gladdens our wearied eyes, sweet Mother! Generation had followed generation on this earth of ours. Men looked up to heaven through their tears, hoping to see appear on the horizon the star which they had been told should disperse the gloomy horrors of the world’s darkness; but death came, and they sank into the tomb, without seeing even the dawn of the light, for which alone they cared to live. It is for us that God had reserved the blessing of seeing thy lovely rising, O thou fair morning star! which sheddest thy blessed rays on the sea, and bringest calm after the long stormy night! Oh! prepare our eyes that they may behold the divine Sun which will soon follow in thy path, and give to the world His reign of light and day. Prepare our hearts, for it is to our hearts that this Jesus of thine wishes to show Himself. To see Him, our hearts must be pure : purify them, 0 thou Immaculate Mother! The divine wisdom has willed that of the feasts which the Church dedicates to thee, this of thy Immaculate Conception should be celebrated during Advent; that thus the children of the Church, reflecting on the jealous care wherewith God preserved thee from every stain of sin because thou wast to be the Mother of His divine Son, might prepare to receive this same Jesus by the most perfect renunciation of every sin and of every attachment to sin. This great change must be made; and thy prayers, O Mary ! will help us to make it. Pray— we ask it of thee by the grace God gave thee in thy Immaculate Conception—that our covetousness may be destroyed, our concupiscence extinguished, and our pride turned into humility. Despise not our prayers, dear Mother of that Jesus who chose thee for His dwelling-place, that He might afterwards find one in each of us.
O Mary! Ark of the covenant, built of an incorruptible wood, and covered over with the purest gold! help us to correspond with those wonderful designs of our God, who, after having found His glory in thine incomparable purity, wills now to seek His glory in our unworthiness, by making us, from being slaves of the devil, His temples and His abode, where He may find His delight. Help us to this, 0 thou that by the mercy of thy Son hast never known sin! and receive this day our devoutest praise. Thou art the ark of salvation ; the one creature unwrecked in the universal deluge ; the white fleece filled with the dew of heaven, whilst the earth around is parched; the flame which the many waters could not quench; the lily blooming amidst thorns; the garden shut against the infernal serpent; the fountain sealed, whose limpid water was never ruffled; the house of the Lord, whereon His eyes were ever fixed, and into which nothing defiled could ever enter; the mystic city, of which such glorious things are said. (Ps. 86:3) We delight in telling all thy glorious titles, O Mary ! for thou art our Mother, and we love thee, and the Mother’s glory is the glory of her children. Cease not to bless and protect all those that honour thy immense privilege, O thou who wert conceived on this day! May this feast fit us for that mystery, for which thy Conception, thy Birth, and thy Annunciation, are all preparations—the Birth of thy Jesus in Bethlehem: yea, dear Mother, we desire thy Jesus, give Him to us and satisfy the longings of our love.
The five psalms which are chanted by the Church in this Office, are those which she always employs on the feasts of our Lady.
The first celebrates the royalty, the priesthood, and the supreme judgeship of Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary; it implies, therefore, the great dignity and the incomparable purity of her who was to give Him birth.
|Ant. Tota pulchra * es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te.
109:1 Dixit Dóminus Dómino meo: * Sede a dextris meis:
109:2 Donec ponam inimícos tuos, * scabéllum pedum tuórum.
109:3 Virgam virtútis tuæ emíttet Dóminus ex Sion: * domináre in médio inimicórum tuórum.
109:4 Tecum princípium in die virtútis tuæ in splendóribus sanctórum: * ex útero ante lucíferum génui te.
109:5 Iurávit Dóminus, et non pœnitébit eum: * Tu es sacérdos in ætérnum secúndum órdinem Melchísedech.
109:6 Dóminus a dextris tuis, * confrégit in die iræ suæ reges.
109:7 Iudicábit in natiónibus, implébit ruínas: * conquassábit cápita in terra multórum.
109:8 De torrénte in via bibet: * proptérea exaltábit caput.
Ant. Tota pulchra * es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te.
|Ant. Thou art all fair, O Mary, * there is no spot of original sin in thee.
109:1 The Lord said to my Lord: * Sit thou at my right hand:
109:2 Until I make thy enemies * thy footstool.
109:3 The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: * rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
109:4 With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: * from the womb before the day star I begot thee.
109:5 The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: * Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
109:6 The Lord at thy right hand * hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
109:7 He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: * he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
109:8 He shall drink of the torrent in the way: * therefore shall he lift up the head.
Ant. Thou art all fair, O Mary, * there is no spot of original sin in thee.
The second psalm celebrates the greatness of God, yet shows Him to us as looking down with complacency on the humble of heart. It is the humility of Mary which made Him choose her for His own Mother, and crown her as the Queen of the universe. She ever remained a pure Virgin, and yet our Lord made her to be Mother of all mankind.
|Ant. Vestimentum tuum * candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
112:1 Laudáte, púeri, Dóminum: * laudáte nomen Dómini.
112:2 (fit reverentia) Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum, * ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum.
112:3 A solis ortu usque ad occásum, * laudábile nomen Dómini.
112:4 Excélsus super omnes gentes Dóminus, * et super cælos glória eius.
112:5 Quis sicut Dóminus, Deus noster, qui in altis hábitat, * et humília réspicit in cælo et in terra?
112:6 Súscitans a terra ínopem, * et de stércore érigens páuperem:
112:7 Ut cóllocet eum cum princípibus, * cum princípibus pópuli sui.
112:8 Qui habitáre facit stérilem in domo, * matrem filiórum lætántem.
Ant. Vestimentum tuum * candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
|Ant. Thy raiment * is white as snow, and thy countenance as the sun.
112:1 Praise the Lord, ye children: * praise ye the name of the Lord.
112:2 (bow head) Blessed be the name of the Lord, * from henceforth now and for ever.
112:3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, * the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
112:4 The Lord is high above all nations; * and his glory above the heavens.
112:5 Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: * and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth?
112:6 Raising up the needy from the earth, * and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill:
112:7 That he may place him with princes, * with the princes of his people.
112:8 Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, * the joyful mother of children.
Ant. Thy raiment * is white as snow, and thy countenance as the sun.
The third psalm sings the glory of Jerusalem, the city of God. Mary, who was the dwelling which the Most High had chosen for Himself, was signified by this blessed city. It is in her, in the admiration which her dignity excites, and in the confidence which her exhaustless love inspires, that the children of the Church are now assembled. The Church herself is also the city of God.
|Ant. Tu gloria Ierusalem, * tu lætitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
121:1 Lætátus sum in his, quæ dicta sunt mihi: * In domum Dómini íbimus.
121:2 Stantes erant pedes nostri, * in átriis tuis, Ierúsalem.
121:3 Ierúsalem, quæ ædificátur ut cívitas: * cuius participátio eius in idípsum.
121:4 Illuc enim ascendérunt tribus, tribus Dómini: * testimónium Israël ad confiténdum nómini Dómini.
121:5 Quia illic sedérunt sedes in iudício, * sedes super domum David.
121:6 Rogáte quæ ad pacem sunt Ierúsalem: * et abundántia diligéntibus te:
121:7 Fiat pax in virtúte tua: * et abundántia in túrribus tuis.
121:8 Propter fratres meos, et próximos meos, * loquébar pacem de te:
121:9 Propter domum Dómini, Dei nostri, * quæsívi bona tibi.
Ant. Tu gloria Ierusalem, * tu lætitia Israël, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
|Ant. Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem, * thou art the great glory of Israel, thou art the great rejoicing of our nation.
121:1 I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: * We shall go into the house of the Lord.
121:2 Our feet were standing * in thy courts, O Jerusalem.
121:3 Jerusalem, which is built as a city, * which is compact together.
121:4 For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: * the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
121:5 Because their seats have sat in judgment, * seats upon the house of David.
121:6 Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: * and abundance for them that love thee.
121:7 Let peace be in thy strength: * and abundance in thy towers.
121:8 For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, * I spoke peace of thee.
121:9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, * I have sought good things for thee.
Ant. Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem, * thou art the great glory of Israel, thou art the great rejoicing of our nation.
The following psalm is inserted in the Office of our Lady on account of the allusion made in it to a house which God Himself has built, and to a city of which He is the guardian. Mary is this house, which God built for Himself ; she is this city, which He has protected from every insult and attack.
|Ant. Benedicta es tu, * Virgo Maria, a Domino Deo excelso prae omnibus mulieribus super terram.
126:1 Nisi Dóminus ædificáverit domum, * in vanum laboravérunt qui ædíficant eam.
126:2 Nisi Dóminus custodíerit civitátem, * frustra vígilat qui custódit eam.
126:3 Vanum est vobis ante lucem súrgere: * súrgite postquam sedéritis, qui manducátis panem dolóris.
126:4 Cum déderit diléctis suis somnum: * ecce heréditas Dómini fílii: merces, fructus ventris.
126:5 Sicut sagíttæ in manu poténtis: * ita fílii excussórum.
126:6 Beátus vir, qui implévit desidérium suum ex ipsis: * non confundétur cum loquétur inimícis suis in porta.
Ant. Benedicta es tu, * Virgo Maria, a Domino Deo excelso prae omnibus mulieribus super terram.
|Ant. Virgin Mary, * blessed art thou of the Most High God, above all the women upon the earth.
126:1 Unless the Lord build the house, * they labour in vain that build it.
126:2 Unless the Lord keep the city, * he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
126:3 It is vain for you to rise before light, * rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow.
126:4 When he shall give sleep to his beloved, * behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb.
126:5 As arrows in the hand of the mighty, * so the children of them that have been shaken.
126:6 Blessed is the man that hath filled the desire with them; * he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.
Ant. Virgin Mary, * blessed art thou of the Most High God, above all the women upon the earth.
Again it is Mary, the mystic city of God, that the Church has in view when she sings, on these feasts, the following beautiful psalm. On this day of her Conception, our Lord strengthened the gates of His beloved city ; the enemy could not enter. God owed this defence to her, by whom He intended to send His Word upon’the earth.
|Ant. Trahe nos, * Virgo immaculata, post te curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum.
147:1 Lauda, Ierúsalem, Dóminum: * lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
147:2 Quóniam confortávit seras portárum tuárum: * benedíxit fíliis tuis in te.
147:3 Qui pósuit fines tuos pacem: * et ádipe fruménti sátiat te.
147:4 Qui emíttit elóquium suum terræ: * velóciter currit sermo eius.
147:5 Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: * nébulam sicut cínerem spargit.
147:6 Mittit crystállum suam sicut buccéllas: * ante fáciem frígoris eius quis sustinébit?
147:7 Emíttet verbum suum, et liquefáciet ea: * flabit spíritus eius, et fluent aquæ.
147:8 Qui annúntiat verbum suum Iacob: * iustítias, et iudícia sua Israël.
147:9 Non fecit táliter omni natióni: * et iudícia sua non manifestávit eis.
Ant. Trahe nos, * Virgo immaculata, post te curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum.
|Ant. Draw us, * Maiden undefiled, we will run after thee in the odour of thy perfumes.
147:1 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: *praise thy God, O Sion.
147:2 Because he hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates * he hath blessed thy children within thee.
147:3 Who hath placed peace in thy borders: * and filleth thee with the fat of corn.
147:4 Who sendeth forth his speech to the earth: * his word runneth swiftly.
147:5 Who giveth snow like wool: * scattereth mists like ashes.
147:6 He sendeth his crystal like morsels: * who shall stand before the face of his cold?
147:7 He shall send out his word, and shall melt them: * his wind shall blow, and the waters shall run.
147:8 Who declareth his word to Jacob: * his justices and his judgments to Israel.
147:9 He hath not done in like manner to every nation: * and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.
Ant. Draw us, * Maiden undefiled, we will run after thee in the odour of thy perfumes.
The capitulum is a passage from the Book of Proverbs of Solomon, in which divine Wisdom, the Son of God, publishes the eternity of the divine decree of the Incarnation. The Church, on this day, puts these same words in the mouth of Mary, inasmuch as this privileged creature was also decreed, before all time, to be the Mother of the Man-God.
Dominus possedit me in initio viarum suarum antequam quidquam faceret a principio. Ab aeterno ordinata sum, et ex antiquis antequam terra fieret. Nondum erant abyssi, et ego iam concepta eram.
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived.
Thanks be to God.
The hymn is that venerable song of the Catholic Church, which is chanted on all the feasts of our Lady. No heart can resist the confidence and love’ which this canticle inspires. How often soever repeated, it seems ever fresh. The nun in her peaceful cloister, and the mariner in the hour of storm, both love their Ave Moris Stella.
|Ave maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix caeli porta.
Sumens illud Ave
Solve vincla reis,
Monstra te esse matrem,
Vitam praesta puram,
Sit laus Deo Patri,
V. Immaculata Conceptio est hodie sanctae Mariae Virginis.
|Ave, star of ocean,
Child divine who barest,
Heaven’s portal fairest.
Taking that sweet Ave
Break the sinners’ fetters,
Show thyself a mother
Maid all maids excelling,
As we onward journey
Father, Son, and Spirit,
V. This day is the Holy Virgin Mary conceived without sin.
Ant. Beatam me dicent * omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, alleluia.
Ant. All generations * shall call me blessed, because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, alleluia.
Deus, qui per Immaculatam Virginis conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti: quaesumus; ut qui ex morte eiusdem Filii tui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos eius intercessione ad te pervenire concedas.
|Let us pray
O God, by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, thou prepared a worthy habitation for thy Son; we beseech thee, that, as by the foreseen death of thy same Son thou preserved her from all stain of sin, so thou would grant us also, through her intercession, to come to thee with pure hearts.
Through the same…
The Introit is a song of thanksgiving, taken from Isaias and the Psalms. Mary extols the wonderful gifts of God to her, and the victory which He has granted her over satan and sin.
Gaudens gaudébo in Dómino, et exsultábit ánima mea in Deo meo: quia índuit me vestiméntis salútis: et induménto iustítiæ circúmdedit me, quasi sponsam ornátam monílibus suis
Exaltábo te, Dómine, quóniam suscepísti me: nec delectásti inimícos meos super me.
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen
Gaudens gaudébo in Dómino, et exsultábit ánima mea in Deo meo: quia índuit me vestiméntis salútis: et induménto iustítiæ circúmdedit me, quasi sponsam ornátam monílibus suis
Deus, qui per immaculátam Vírginis Conceptiónem dignum Fílio tuo habitáculum præparásti: quaesumus; ut, qui ex morte eiúsdem Filii tui prævísa eam ab omni labe præservásti, nos quoque mundos eius intercessióne ad te perveníre concédas. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
|Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, prepared a worthy dwelling for Your Son, and Who, by Your Son’s death, foreseen by You, preserved her from all taint, grant, we beseech You, through her intercession, that we too may come to You unstained by sin. 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.
Here is made a commemoration of Advent, by the Collect of the preceding Sunday.
|Léctio libri Sapiéntiæ.
Dóminus possedit me in inítio viárum suárum, ántequam quidquam fáceret a princípio. Ab ætérno ordináta sum, et ex antíquis, ántequam terra fíeret. Nondum erant abýssi, et ego iam concépta eram: necdum fontes aquárum erúperant: necdum montes gravi mole constíterant: ante colles ego parturiébar: adhuc terram non fécerat et flúmina et cárdines orbis terræ. Quando præparábat coelos, áderam: quando certa lege et gyro vallábat abýssos: quando aethera firmábat sursum et librábat fontes aquárum: quando circúmdabat mari términum suum et legem ponébat aquis, ne transírent fines suos: quando appendébat fundaménta terræ. Cum eo eram cuncta compónens: et delectábar per síngulos dies, ludens coram eo omni témpore: ludens in orbe terrárum: et delíciæ meæ esse cum filiis hóminum. Nunc ergo, filii, audíte me: Beáti, qui custódiunt vias meas. Audíte disciplínam, et estóte sapiéntes, et nolíte abiícere eam. Beátus homo, qui audit me et qui vígilat ad fores meas cotídie, et obsérvat ad postes óstii mei. Qui me invénerit, invéniet vitam et háuriet salútem a Dómino.
R. Deo gratias.
|Lesson from the book of Proverbs
The Lord begot me, the firstborn of His ways, the forerunner of His prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. When He established the heavens I was there, when He marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when He made firm the skies above, and poised the fountains of waters; when He set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress His command; when He fixed fast the foundations of the earth; then was I beside Him as His craftsman, and I was His delight day by day, playing before Him all the while, playing on the surface of His earth and I found delight in the sons of men. So now, O children, listen to me; happy those who keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Happy the man who obeys me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorsteps, for he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
The apostle teaches us that Jesus, our Emmanuel, is the first born of every creature. (I Col. i. 15.) These mysterious words signify not only that He is, as God, eternally begotten of the Father; but also that the divine Word is, as Man, anterior to all created beings. Yet, how is this? The world had been created, and the human race had dwelt on this earth full four thousand years, before the Son of God took to Himself the nature of man. It is not in the order of time, but in the eternal intention of God, that the Man-God preceded every creature. The eternal Father decreed first to give to His eternal Son a created nature, namely, the nature of man ; and, in consequence of this decree, to create all beings, whether spiritual or material, as a kingdom for this Man-God. This explains to us how it is, that the divine Wisdom, the Son of God, in the passage of the sacred Scripture which forms the Epistle of this feast, proclaims His having existed before all the creatures of the universe. As God, He was begotten from all eternity in the bosom of the Father ; as Man, He was, in the mind of God, the type of all creatures, before those creatures were made. But the Son of God could not be of our race, as the divine will decreed He should be, unless He were born in time, and born of a Mother as other men; and therefore she that was to be His Mother was eternally present to the thought of God, as the means whereby the Word would assume the human nature. The Son and the Mother are therefore united in the plan of the Incarnation: Mary, therefore, existed, as did Jesus, in the divine decree, before creation began. This is the reason of the Church’s having, from the earliest ages of Christianity, interpreted this sublime passage of the sacred volume of Jesus and of Mary unitedly, and ordering it and analogous passages of the Scriptures to be read in the assembly of the faithful on the solemnities or feasts of the Mother of God. But if Mary be thus prominent in the divine and eternal plan; if, in the sense in which these mysterious texts are understood by the Church, she was, with Jesus, before every creature ; could God permit her to be subjected to the original sin, which was to fall on all the children of Adam? She is, it is true, to be a child of Adam like her divine Son Himself, and to be born at the time fixed ; but that torrent, which sweeps all mankind along, shall be turned away from’ her by God’s grace; it shall not come near to her; and she shall transmit to her Son, who is also the Son of God, the human nature in its original perfection, created, as the apostle says, in holiness and justice. (Eph. iv. 24.)
The Gradual is the application to the Immaculate Mother of God of those praises with which the ancients of Bethulia greeted Judith, after she had slain the enemy of God’s people. Judith is one of the types of Mary, who crushed the head of the serpent.
The Alleluia verse applies to our blessed Lady those words of the divine Canticle, which proclaim the bride of God to be all fair and spotless.
|Iudith 13:23, 15:10, Cant 4:7
Benedícta es tu. Virgo María, a Dómino, Deo excélso, præ ómnibus muliéribus super terram, Tu glória Ierúsalem, tu lætítia Israël, tu honorificéntia pópuli nostri.
Allelúia, alleluia. Tota pulchra es, María: et mácula originális non est in te. Allelúia.
|Judith 13:23, 15:10, Cant 4:7
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the honor of our people.
Alleluia, alleluia. You are all-beautiful, O Mary, and there is in you no stain of original sin. Alleluia.
|Sequéntia ✝ sancti Evangélii secúndum Lucam.
R. Gloria tibi, Domine!
In illo témpore: Missus est Angelus Gábriël a Deo in civitátem Galilaeæ, cui nomen Názareth, ad Vírginem desponsátam viro, cui nomen erat Ioseph, de domo David, et nomen Vírginis María. Et ingréssus Angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, grátia plena; Dóminus tecum: benedícta tu in muliéribus.
R. Laus tibi, Christe!
S. Per Evangelica dicta, deleantur nostra delicta.
|Continuation ☩ of the Holy Gospel according to Luke
R. Glory be to Thee, O Lord.
At that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And when the angel come to her, he said, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.
R. Praise be to Thee, O Christ.
S. By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out.
This is the salutation with which the Archangel greets Mary. It shows us what was his admiration and his profound veneration for the Virgin of Nazareth. The holy Gospel tells us that Mary was troubled at these words, and thought within herself what such a salutation as this could imply. The sacred Scriptures record many angelical salutations: but, as St. Ambrose, St. Andrew of Crete, and, before them, Origen had remarked, there is not one which contains such praises as this does. The prudent Virgin was, therefore, naturally surprised at the extraordinary words of the angel, and, as the early fathers observe, they would remind her of that other interview between Eve and the serpent. She therefore remained silent, and it was only after the Archangel had spoken to her a second time, that she made him a reply.
And yet, Gabriel had spoken not only with all the eloquence, but with all the profound wisdom of a celestial spirit initiated into the divine mysteries; and, in his own superhuman language, he announced that the moment had come when Eve was to be transformed into Mary. There was present before him a woman destined for the sublimest dignity, the woman that was to be the Mother of God; yet, up to this solemn moment, Mary was but a daughter of the human race. Think, then, taking Gabriel’s words as your guide, what must have been the holiness of Mary in this her first estate : is it not evident that the prophecy, made in the earthly paradise, had already been accomplished in her?
The Archangel proclaims her futt of grace. What means this, but that the second woman possesses in herself that element of which sin had deprived the first? And observe, he does not say merely that divine grace works in her, but that she is full of it. ‘She is not merely in grace as others are,’ as Saint Peter Chrysologus told us on his feast, ‘but she is filled with it.’ Everything in her is resplendent with heavenly purity, and sin has never cast its shadow on her beauty. To appreciate the full import of Gabriel’s expression, we must consider what is the force of the words in the language which the sacred historian used. Grammarians tell us that the single word which he employs is much more comprehensive than our expression ‘full of grace.’ It implies not only the present time, but the past as well, an incorporation of grace from the very commencement, the full and complete affirmation of grace, the total permanence of grace. Our translation has unavoidably weakened the term.
The better to feel the full force of our translation, let us compare this with an analogous text from the Gospel of St. John. This evangelist, speaking of the Humanity of the Incarnate Word, expresses all by saying that Jesus is full of grace and truth. (St. John i. 14.) Now, would this fulness have been real, had sin ever been there, instead of grace, even for a single instant? Could we call him full of grace, who had once stood in need of being cleansed? Undoubtedly, we must ever respectfully bear in mind the distance between the Humanity of the Incarnate Word and the person of Mary, from whose womb the Son of God assumed that Humanity; but the sacred text obliges us to confess, that the fulness of grace was, proportionately, in both Jesus and Mary.
Gabriel goes on still enumerating the supernatural riches of Mary. He says to her: ‘The Lord is with thee.’ What means this? It means, that even before Mary had conceived our Lord in her chaste womb, she already possessed Him in her soul. But, would the words be true, if that union with God had once not been, and had begun only when her disunion with Him by sin had been removed? The solemn occasion, on which the angel uses this language, forbids us to think that he conveyed by it any other idea, than that she had always had the Lord with her. We feel the allusion to a contrast between the first and the second Eve; the first lost the God who had once been with her; the second had, like the first, received our Lord into her from the first moment of her existence, and never lost Him, but continued from first to last and forever to have Him with her.
Let us listen once more to the salutation, and we shall find from its last words that Gabriel is announcing the fulfilment of the divine oracle, and is addressing Mary as the woman foretold to be the instrument of the victory over satan. ‘Blessed art thou among women.’ For four thousand years, every woman has been under the curse of God, and has brought forth her children in suffering and sorrow: but here is the one among women, that has been ever blessed of God, that has ever been the enemy of the serpent, and that shall bring forth the fruit of her womb without travail.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is therefore declared in the Archangel’s salutation; and we can now understand why the Church selected this portion of the Gospel to be read to-day in the assembly of the faithful.
After the glorious chant of the Symbol of our faith, the choir intones the Offertory : it is composed of the words of the angelical salutation. Let us say to Mary with Gabriel: Verily, 0 Mary, thou art full of grace.
Ave, María, grátia plena; Dóminus tecum: benedícta tu in muliéribus, allelúia.
Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women. Alleluia.
|Salutárem hóstiam, quam in sollemnitáte immaculátæ Conceptiónis beátæ Vírginis Maríæ tibi, Dómine, offérimus, súscipe et præsta: ut, sicut illam tua grátia præveniénte ab omni labe immúnem profitémur; ita eius intercessióne a culpis ómnibus liberémur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.||Accept, O Lord, the sacrifice of salvation which we offer You on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the blessed Virgin Mary; and grant that as we profess that she was kept from all taint of evil, by Your anticipating grace, so, through her intercession, may we be freed from all sin. 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.|
A commemoration is here made of Advent, by the Secret of the preceding Sunday.
The Church is too full of joy on this great feast to be satisfied with her usual form of thanksgiving; she employs one which makes mention of the holy Mother of God, whose Conception revives her hopes, and announces the rising of Him who is the eternal light.
|Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutáre, nos tibi semper et ubique grátias ágere: Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus: Et te in Conceptióne immaculáta beátæ Maríæ semper Vírginis collaudáre, benedícere et prædicáre. Quæ et Unigénitum tuum Sancti Spíritus obumbratióne concépit: et, virginitátis glória permanénte, lumen ætérnum mundo effúdit, Iesum Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Per quem maiestátem tuam laudant Angeli, adórant Dominatiónes, tremunt Potestátes. Coeli coelorúmque Virtútes ac beáta Séraphim sócia exsultatióne concélebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti iubeas, deprecámur, súpplici confessióne dicéntes:||It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: and that we should praise and bless, and proclaim Thee, in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary, ever-Virgin: Who also conceived Thine only-begotten Son by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, and the glory of her virginity still abiding, gave forth to the world the everlasting Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, and the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with these we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted while we say with lowly praise:|
During the Communion, the Church shares in the holy enthusiasm, wherewith David proclaims the glories and the privileges of the mystic city of God.
|Gloriósa dicta sunt de te, María: quia fecit tibi magna qui potens est.||Glorious things are said of you, O Mary, for He Who is mighty has done great things for you.|
Sacraménta quæ súmpsimus, Dómine, Deus noster: illíus in nobis culpæ vúlnera réparent; a qua immaculátam beátæ Maríæ Conceptiónem singuláriter præservásti. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
|Let us pray.
May the sacrament we have received, O Lord our God, heal in us the wounds of that sin from which by a singular privilege, You kept immaculate the conception of blessed Mary. 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.
Then is made a commemoration of Advent, by the Postcommunion of the preceding Sunday.