During Advent, as we prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, we also celebrate one of the great feasts of the Catholic Church. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (8 December-moved to 8 December in 2019) is not only a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary but a foretaste of our own redemption.
In keeping the Blessed Virgin free from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception, God presents us with a glorious example of what mankind was meant to be. Mary is truly the second Eve, because, like Eve, she entered the world without sin. Unlike Eve, she remained sinless throughout her life—a life that she dedicated fully to the will of God. The Eastern Fathers of the Church referred to her as “without stain” (a phrase that appears frequently in the Eastern liturgies and hymns to Mary), in Latin, that phrase is immaculatus: “immaculate.”
The Immaculate Conception was not, as many people mistakenly believe, a precondition for Christ’s act of redemption but the result of it. Standing outside of time, God knew that Mary would humbly submit herself to His will and in His love for this perfect servant, He applied to her at the moment of her conception the redemption, won by Christ, that all Christians receive at their Baptism.
It is appropriate, then, that the Church has long declared the month in which the Blessed Virgin not only was conceived but gave birth to the Saviour of the world, as the Month of the Immaculate Conception.
The star of Mary Immaculate shines down on the path of Advent….
What person is more luminous than Mary?
Who can be for us, better than her, the star of hope,
the sunrise that proclaims the day of salvation?
Pope Benedict XVI
Holy light on earth’s horizon, Star of hope to those who fall, Light amid a world of shadows, Dawn of God’s design for all.
Mary, Virgin of Advent, may we always walk with you in the light of the Lord, Jesus, the fruit of your womb! Amen
Our Morning Offering – 19 October – Saturday of the Twenty-eighth week in Ordinary Time, Year C and a Marian Saturday in October!
An October Prayer
Mother, at thy feet is kneeling
One who loves thee–it’s thy child
Who has sighed so oft’ to see thee,
Bless me, Mother, Mother mild.
And when storms are raging round me,
And when tempests hover near,
In thy own sweet arms enfold me,
Shield me, Mother, Mother dear.
Mother, when my Saviour calls me
From this world of sin and strife,
Clasp me upon thy spotless bosom,
Let me bid farewell to life.
Plead for me when Jesus judges,
Answer for me when He asks
How I’ve spent so many moments,
How performed so many tasks.
Tell Him I was weak and feeble,
Yes, that I so often strayed
From the thorny path of virtue
To the one with roses laid.
Yet, O Mother, tell my Jesus
That I loved Him fond and true
And, O Mother, dearest Mother,
Tell Him I belong to you.
Then He’ll place me (yes, I feel it)
Close to thee, O Mother dear,
Then I’ll praise and bless and thank thee
Thru eternity’s long years.
Thought for the Day – 25 September – The Memorial of Blessed Herman of Reichenau/the Cripple OSB (1013–1054) the Author of the Salve Regina
THE “SALVE, REGINA” RECEIVES AN ADDITION
In the year 1146 Saint Bernard, the illustrious doctor of the Church and abbot of Clairvaux, was travelling through Germany and by the power of his eloquence was rousing the people of that country to the necessity of entering upon another crusade, a spirited one, in order to wrest from the iron grasp of the heathens those places in Palestine that had been sanctified by the footsteps and moistened with the blood, of our holy Redeemer.
Passing from Switzerland, by way of Strasbourg, Saint Bernard sailed down the river Rhine and landed at Spire, on Christmas Eve, 1146. In a grand procession, composed of the civic societies and trades unions, with their banners waving in the air and holding lighted tapers in their hands, followed in turn by the clergy with their bishop clad in pontifical robes, Saint Bernard was conducted, amid every sign of respect from the multitudes who lined the streets of the city, to the majestic cathedral.
Here, amid the chant of the choristers and the joyful pealing of the bells, the great preacher of the holy wars was met by the Emperor Conrad and all the royal princes of the court, who tendered to their illustrious guest the welcome of their realm.
It was a scene of great magnificence as the saint crossed the threshold of the sacred edifice. Thousands had to remain outside the building, for the saint’s great reputation for sanctity and the fame of the wondrous miracles that he had wrought, as well as his renowned eloquence, had drawn vast crowds from far and near, eager to get a glimpse of his venerable person.
As the solemn procession, preceded by the cross and other standards, marched slowly up the grand aisle of the cathedral, a choir of a thousand voices chanted the hymn, “Salve, Regina,” or “Hail, holy Queen.” The lofty vaults of the sacred edifice spanning many altars ablaze with a thousand lights, the soldierly form of the emperor, the venerable mien of the holy bishops, the long files of white-robed priests, the vast crowds of admiring people, the inspiring strains of the music and all this but the expression of truly Catholic hearts, over-powered the soul of Saint Bernard with emotions of intense gratitude to God and His blessed Mother.
The altar was reached as the singers’ voices repeated the last words of the “Salve, Regina.” A profound silence ensued as the words, “Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exilium ostende” – that is, “Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” died away. In a moment of inspiration, and overwhelmed with the loftiest sentiments of piety towards the Blessed Virgin, the great Saint Bernard, in thrilling tones, exclaimed spontaneously, “O clemens, O pia, O dukis Virgo Maria!” that is, “O element, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”
From that moment the “Salve, Regina” continued to have a new ending. The love-breathing words of Saint Bernard, the honey-tongued doctor, as holy Church styles him, were universally adopted and added, with a will by all, to the “Salve, Regina” originally composed by Blessed Herman the Cripple.
They form a beautiful and fitting ending to a beautiful apostrophe to the Mother of God. In the cathedral at Spire, every day, from that time till our day, the “Salve, Regina” is sung solemnly in memory of the events so sacred which led to the inspired composition of its present ending and in memory of the saint who uttered the beautiful words.
Salve Regina, Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God!
V Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
℟ that we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ.
Blessed Herman, Pray for Us!
St Bernard, Pray for us!
Saint of the Day – Blessed Herman of Reichenau/the Cripple OSB (1013–1054) Benedictine Monk, Confessor, Scholar, Scientist, Writer, Hymnist, Poet, Musical Composer, Teacher – born on 18 February 1013 at Altshausen, Swabia (in modern Germany) and died on 21 September 1054 at Reichenau abbey, Germany of natural causes. Also known as Hermann Contractus, Herimanus Augiensis, Hermann von Reichenau.
In his own day, the heroic cripple who achieved learning and holiness was called ‘The Wonder of His Age’. He composed works on history, music theory, mathematics and astronomy, as well as many hymns. Composer of the “Salve Regina” Hail Holy Queen, “Veni Sancte Spiritus” Come Holy Spirit and “Alma Redemptoris Mater” Nourishing Mother of the Redeemer. He was renowned as a religious poet and musical composer. Among his surviving works are officia for St Afra and St Wolfgang. When he went blind in later life, he began writing hymns and these have carried the Church and still do for a 1000 years in joy and glory!
Blessed Herman was the son of Count Wolverad II von Altshausen. Being a cripple (born with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy and possibly spina bifida – though today it is thought that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy) from birth (hence the surname Contractus) he was powerless to move without assistance and it was only by the greatest effort that he was able to read and write but he was so highly gifted intellectually, that when he was but seven years of age his parents confided him to the learned Abbot Berno, on the island of Reichenau.
His great love and sincere devotion for the “Mother of the afflicted ” secured him peace of soul and even lightened his bodily sufferings. We are told, however, that he continued to pray to his beloved Mother for restoration to health and strength, if it should be pleasing to God. Pious legend informs us, that when he had prayed thus for some months, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and offered him the choice between two gifts, namely, health or wisdom. Herman, without hesitating a moment, chose the gift of wisdom. He made a wise selection, for notwithstanding his bodily infirmities he became one of the most learned men of his time. Under the poor form of a deformed body there dwelt a noble soul, a clear and richly gifted intellect and a humble and charitable heart.
Herman spent his entire life in the monastery Reichenau as a teacher, researcher and musician. Herman was bound to a carrying chair and was completely dependent on his servants. He could only write with difficulty and one may assume that he has dictated a large part of his works. And even that might have been difficult, as his biographer writes that he could only speak with difficulty and was barely understandable. But if we are allowed to believe Berthold, his charisma, his cheerfulness and his modesty of intelligence were so impressive that everyone had to love him.
A good student of theology, he could also produce works of spiritual depth. For a readership of nuns he wrote a discourse “On the Eight Principal Vices.” It was cast in poetry and he handled the versification with great lyricism. He also knew how to give serious matters a light touch. The treatise for nuns was witty and he even began his world chronicle with a touch of self-depreciation: “Herman, the rubbish of Christ’s little ones, lagging behind the learners of philosophy more slowly than a donkey or a slug … ”
Herman was not just a music theoretician but, with that, he took on a special position – he himself created melodies – and he may be considered one of the first known composers of Gregorian chants. In contrast to the strict Gregorian chant, his music show an almost romantic melody. His “Salve Regina” is clearly the work of a master.
Herman gave instructions on how to measure the circumference of the earth at a time when there was not even clarity about the spherical shape of the earth. One of Herman’s inventions was the pillar sundial , which he called the horologium viatorum.
His iron will overcame all obstacles and it was not long before his brilliant attainments made him a shining light in the most diversified branches of learning, including, besides theology, mathematics, astronomy, music, the Latin, Greek and Arabic tongues. Students soon flocked to him from all parts, attracted not only by the fame of his scholarship but also by his monastic virtue and his lovable personality.
We are indebted to him chiefly for a chronicle of the most important events from the birth of Christ to his day. It is the earliest of the medieval universal chronicles now extant and was compiled from numerous sources, being a monument to his great industry as well as to his extraordinary erudition and strict regard for accuracy. While it is not improbable that this work was based on a previous state chronicle of Swabia, since lost (called “Chronicum Universale Suevicum”, or “Epitome Sangallensis”), it has nevertheless a significance entirely its own. But the full measure of his genius appears from the objectivity and clearness with which he wrote the history of his own time, the materials of which were accessible to him only by means of verbal tradition.
In later life he became blind and had to give up his academic writing.
He died on the island of Reichenau, Lake Constance, 21 September, 1054. He was Beatified in 1863 by Pope Pius IX.
Three of five symphonies that were written by Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya are based on his texts.
Quote/s of the Day – 12 September – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary
“This most holy, sweet and worthy name was eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons, to men, she is the Star of the sea, to the Angels, she is illuminatrix and to all creatures she is Lady.”
St Bonaventure (1217-1274) Seraphic Doctor
“Mary means Star of the sea, for as mariners are guided to port by the ocean star, so Christians attain to glory, through Mary’s maternal intercession.”
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
“One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Rare perfume is a rough and reeking place, A bell-like music breaking through the blare Of strident streets, a dear remembered face Appearing through the mind’s pondrous despair.
A foam of summer flowers fringing the drear Immobile desert sea, a cherished voice Calling in some long night of pain and fear To make the heavy, heaving heart rejoice. Such is the mystic wonder of her name That is a shudder down Hell’s shaken halls, And joy where angel-wings flit like white flames, Where height to echoing height its glory calls.
Our Morning Offering – 15 September – The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blest,
Of the sole begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs.
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother: fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torment died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the Cross with thee to stay;
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swooned
In His very blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy Cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.
Note: This text of the Stabat Mater is one of over 60 translations of this famous Latin hymn that can also be recited in prayer. It is often used when praying the Stations of the Cross. The original Latin text of the Stabat Mater has also been set to music by such composers as Haydn, Rossini, and Poulenc.