This is the great Festival of the Incarnation, commemorating the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to Our Lady that the Divine Son of God, the Word, would take human nature upon Him in the virginal womb. Its date is determined by that of Christmas Day, and as the day which marked the beginning of Christian dispensation it was for many centuries regarded as the first day of the civil year.
On this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, uniting for evermore our human nature to the Divine nature. The Mystery of the Incarnation brings vividly before us the boundless condescension and humility of God the Son in stooping to our condition in order to be our Savior. Equally it proclaims the glory and greatness of Mary, who was chosen to give to the Divine Word human flesh and human birth, and so to co-operate with God in the restoration of mankind. Hence her most glorious title of “Mother of God,” which explains all her glories, her sanctity and her honor.
From Fr. Goffinés The Church’s Year:
Why does the Evangelist so minutely detail the announcement of the Incarnation?
That we may clearly impress upon our mind, believe in, and meditate upon the mystery of the Incarnation, upon which depends our eternal salvation.
Why was an angel sent to Mary?
To announce to her that it was God’s will that His divine Son, in order to redeem the human race by His sufferings and death, should take human nature from her, and because the human race, redeemed by Christ, was to occupy the place made vacant by the fallen angels.
Was the Incarnation necessary for our redemption?
Yes; for as God, Christ could not suffer; without an infinitely meritorious suffering a sufficient satisfaction could not have been rendered to God, had not the Son of God humiliated Himself before His heavenly Father, and suffered: this could only be effected by the Incarnation. This shows the enormity of sin, for which no man however pure, no, not even an angel, but only a God-Man could atone.
Why did God require Mary’s consent for the Incarnation of His Son?
To show us that God forces no one to good, much less to evil; that we might learn that our good intention and free assent are necessary even to good works, if we wish them to be meritorious. Venerable Bede says: that because of her consent God imparted to Mary all, even the greatest graces, greater than all creatures, angels as well as men, ever merited.
Why was Mary troubled at the angel’s message?
On account of her humility and modesty. She was so humble that she regarded herself as the least of all creatures, and could not comprehend how such an honor could be hers. She was so modest, and loved virginal purity so much that the presence of the angel and his message troubled her. From this all maidens should see that their loveliest adornments and most necessary virtues are modesty, humility and love of purity, which Mary so valued that she would not lose them even to become the Mother of God.
What is meant by the throne of David?
The kingdom of Christ, of which David’s government was a representation. (Ps. cxxxi.)
Why is David called the father of Christ?
Because Mary descended from the house of David, and, therefore, David according to nature was the forefather of Christ.
Who was the real father of Christ?
To answer this properly, we must observe that in Christ there are two natures, the divine and the human. According to His human nature He had indeed a mother, but no father, for Joseph was only His foster-father; according to His divine nature He had no mother, but only a father, the Heavenly Father.
How, then, was Christ conceived?
By the overshadowing and power of the Holy Ghost, who by His divine omnipotence effected the conception of Him whom Mary was to bring forth.
How should we be encouraged by the words: No word shall be impossible with God?
We should be encouraged to a great confidence in God, who can readily assist us in the most difficult circumstances, even when help seems impossible, and He will aid us, if it is beneficial, and if we ask Him. These words, moreover, admonish us to a firm faith which cannot be shaken by the most incomprehensible mystery in matters of faith.
Why does Mary call herself the handmaid of the Lord?
From humility, which next to her maidenly modesty was her most remarkable virtue, which causes St. Bernard to say: “By her purity she pleased God, and by her humility she conceived Him.”
Explanation of the “Hail Mary” or the Angelic Salutation
Why is the “Hail Mary” called the Angelic Salutation?
Because it commences with the words addressed to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel, when he brought her the message that she was to be the Mother of God.
Of what does the Hail Mary consist?
Of the words of the Archangel Gabriel; of St. Elizabeth’s salutation, when she was visited by Mary; and of words added by the Catholic Church.
What words did the angel say to Mary?
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women!
What is meant by these words?
The word Hail, that is, Salutation to thee! Peace with thee! or, Joy to thee! expresses the reverence which the angel had for the Blessed Virgin, and which we should also cherish. The words: full of grace remind us that God bestowed more graces upon the Blessed “Virgin than upon all men and angels together. We should for this reason always pray with confidence to her to obtain for us, by her powerful intercession, those graces which are most necessary for our salvation. By the words: the Lord is with thee, the angel intended to express, that the Lord was with this maiden not only in His reality, presence, and omnipotence as with all men, not only in His grace as with the just, but with the greatest and most extraordinary grace, love and familiarity. St. Augustine observes: “The angel wished to say: The Lord is with thee more than with me; the Lord is with thee, so that He may be in thy heart, in thy body, may fill thy spirit, may fill thy flesh.” “Could God raise her higher!” St. Bernard here exclaims. Ah, that the Lord might be with us also, and Mary by her intercession obtain graces for us! Finally, the words: Blessed art thou amongst women, mean: thou art the happiest of women, for thou of all thy sex art chosen to be the Mother of God, at the same time Mother and Maid. How much is contained in the salutation which one of the highest spirits surrounding the throne of God, addressed to Mary, and how much it behooves us to love and daily salute Mary, our most tender Mother!
What were the words used by St. Elizabeth, and what is their signification?
Elizabeth repeated the words of the angel: Blessed art thou amongst women, adding “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” which signified that Jesus should be glorified, because through Him God would bestow all spiritual and heavenly blessings upon us.
Which are the words added by the Church?
They are: “Jesus”, who is the fruit of her womb, by which she wishes us to offer this prayer to God in the name of Christ; and then she adds the invocation to Mary: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
What do these words mean?
When we say Holy Mary, we mean to express that Mary is God’s holy and wonderful work, Daughter of the Heavenly Father, Mother of the Son, and Bride of the Holy Ghost, and has all her sanctity, beauty, and that great veneration from the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ. The glorious title of Mother of God is given her, because Mary bore not an ordinary man, but Jesus Christ who is both God and Man. Therefore from her was born the Son of God, the incarnate God, not a man who appeared like God, but God in flesh. She is, then, really and truly the Mother of God, our Lord’s Mother. The Fathers who had assembled in the holy Council of Chalcedon, to refute Nestorius, who sought to deprive Mary of the title of Mother of God, called her “Holy Mary, Mother of God.” Of herself Mary is not holy, and cannot of herself help us, therefore we say: pray for us, by which we ask for her powerful intercession; and conscious of our poverty and sinfulness, call ourselves poor sinners, who turn to Mary, the Mother of mercy, because we feel ourselves too unworthy to pray to Christ Himself, and, therefore, entreat this loving mother to obtain for us amendment of life, remission of sin, consolation in affliction, remedy in sickness, assistance in need, increase of grace, preservation, perseverance, and the crown; and may Mary pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Now, that is, while the divine mercy is given us, and especially in the hour of death, when the weapons for battle against the enemy fall from our hands, and the evil one tempts us the more violently, because he knows that his time is short, (Apoc. xii. 12.) in that hour on which depends our eternal welfare or grief. By the word Amen we affirm that we remain true venerators of the Virgin Mother of God, and at all times expect grace from God through her intercession. “Yes,” says St. Bernard, “let us venerate Mary as sincerely, heartily, and confidently as we can, for such is His will who desired that we should have all (salvation and redemption in Christ) through Mary.” The Son will assuredly hear the Mother, and the Father the Son. Let us, then, strive to rise by her to Him who by her came down to us!
Through thee, who hast found grace with God, Mother of life! Mother of salvation! we have access to the Son, who accepts us from thee, who was given us by thee — to Jesus Christ, eternally blessed.
On the “Angelus Domini,” the Angel of the Lord
Who introduced the angelic salutation into the Catholic Church?
Pope Urban II., who at the Council of Clermont, France, in 1095, ordered that the bells be rung every day in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, and that at each time the angelic salutation be repeated. His special intention was to obtain Mary’s protection for the crusades of the eleventh century, which had for their object the rescuing of the holy Sepulchre from the hands of the infidels. These wars are now ended, but the life of the whole Church, of every Christian, is a crusade against sin and temptation. We always need Mary’s protection; and, therefore, the custom of repeating the salutation is still retained in the Church. Formerly at the ringing of the Angelus, all the faithful fell on their knees, and even now pious Catholics do the same. St. Charles Borromeo, an archbishop, did not hesitate to kneel in the open street and repeat the angelic salutation.
Of what does the “Angelus Domini” consist?
It consists of three Hail Marys: before the first is said: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost; before the second: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word; before the third: and the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.
Why and how often is the “Angelus Domini” said?
It is said in order to remind us of Christ’s Incarnation and in thanks for it; to ask the Blessed Virgin’s maternal protection against all enemies visible and invisible; to recollect at least three times in the day, morning, noon and evening, like David, to give praise to God, and take a little time expressly for prayer, for which purpose the bells are rung three times a day.
How should we say the “Angelus Domini?”
With respect, that is, slowly and kneeling (except on Saturday evenings and Sundays, and during the time of Easter, when it is said standing); contritely, since Christ became man because of our sins; devoutly, that is, heart and lips should be in accord.