Moments with Saint Pope John XXIII (1881-1963)
“This is the first shining point of union between heaven and earth – the first of those events which were to be the greatest of all time.
The Son of God, Word of the Father, “without whom was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3), in the order of creation, in this mystery takes on human nature and becomes a man, in order to save and redeem all men, all mankind.
When Mary Immaculate, the finest and most fragrant flower of all creation, said in answer to the angel’s greeting: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), she accepted the honour of divine motherhood, which was, in that moment, realised within her.
And we, born once in our father Adam, formerly the adopted sons of God but fallen from that high estate, are now once more brothers, adopted sons of the Father, restored to His adoption by the redemption which was already begun.
At the foot of the Cross, we shall all be children of Mary, with that same Jesus, whom she has conceived on that day.
From that day onwards, she will be Mother of God (Mater Dei) and our Mother (Mater Nostra) too.
What sublimity, what tender love is this first mystery!
When we reflect on this, we see that our chief and constant duty is, to thank the Lord who deigned to come to save us and for this purpose, made Himself man, our brother man; He has joined us by becoming the Son of a woman and by making us, at the foot of the Cross, the adopted sons of this woman. He wanted us, who were the adopted sons of His Heavenly Father, to be the sons of His own Mother.
Let the intention of our prayer, as we contemplate this first picture offered to our thoughts, be, besides a constant feeling of gratitude, a real and sincere effort to acquire humility, purity and ardent love for the Blessed Virgin, who provides the most precious example of all these virtues.”
Second Thought for the Day – 25 March – The Annunciation
The Annunciation By Fr Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Ashes of paper, ashes of a world
Wandering, when fire is done:
We argue with the drops of rain!
Until one comes Who walks unseen
Even in elements we have destroyed.
Deeper than any nerve
He enters flesh and bone.
Planting His truth, He puts our substance on.
Air, earth and rain
Rework the frame that fire has ruined.
What was dead is waiting for His Flame.
Sparks of His Spirit spend their seeds, and hide
To grow like irises, born before summertime.
These blue thinas bud in Israel.
The girl prays by the bare wall
Between the lamp and the chair.
(Framed with an angel in our galleries
She has a richer painted room, sometimes a crown.
Yet seven pillars of obscurity
Build her to Wisdom’s house, and Ark and Tower.
She is the Secret of another Testament
She owns their manna in her jar.)
Fifteen years old –
The flowers printed on her dress
Cease moving in the middle of her prayer
When God, Who sends the messenger,
Meets His messenger in her Heart.
Her answer, between breath and breath,
Wrings from her innocence our Sacrament!
In her white body God becomes our Bread.
It is her tenderness
Heats the dead world like David on his bed.
Times that were too soon criminal
And never wanted to be normal
Evade the beast that has pursued
You, me and Adam out of Eden’s wood.
Suddenly we find ourselves assembled
Cured and recollected under several green trees.
Her prudence wrestled with the Dove
To hide us in His cloud of steel and silver:
These are the mysteries of her Son.
And here my heart, a purchased outlaw,
Prays in her possession
Until her Jesus, makes my heart
Smile like a flower in her blameless hand.
Fr Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Trappist monk and priest is recognized as one of the major spiritual fathers of our times. His longing for silence and solitude, his contemplative vision, his engagement with need for world peace through inner life of the spirit, his journey across religious traditions, cultures and disciplines, make him a man for all times but especially for our own. Thomas Merton expressed this vision in his poetry, novels, essays, devotionals and autobiographical writings.
Lenten Thoughts – 25 March – The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Mary’s Fiat, must be our Fiat
Mary’s fiat– her faithful “Here am I,” which does not replace her perplexity at her conception of God made human but overcomes it– is an announcement in itself. In fact, her announcement, is the most important one of today’s Gospel reading. Let it be our announcement, too, then, for it is appropriate at all times and at any time. And now, our brief, prayerful, announcement: “Here [are we], the servant[s] of the Lord, let it be done to [us] according to your word.”
I delight to do thy will, O my God, thy law is within my heart.
“God Himself is the one Who takes the initiative and chooses to enter, as He did with Mary, into our homes, our daily struggles, filled with anxiety and with desires. And it is within our cities, in our schools and universities, our squares and hospitals, that the most beautiful announcement we can hear is made: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you”. A joy that generates life, that generates hope, that is made flesh in the way we look to the future, in the attitude with which we look at others. A joy that becomes solidarity, hospitality, mercy towards all.”
Pope Francis – Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, 25 March 2017
Three times daily, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm, we pray the Angelus. It is still accompanied by the ringing of a bell (the Angelus bell) in some places such as Vatican City and parts of Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and Ireland. The Regina Coeli prayer (which may also be sung as a hymn) replaces the Angelus during the Easter season.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Thought for the Day – 25 March – The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth. She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence. She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God. She shows how, an ordinary human being, can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become. She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God. She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.
Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby, discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her. Perhaps, such an observation is misguided. God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal. We have scarcely begun to realise the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love. The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us, to wake up, to the marvellous creatures that we all are by divine design.
Quote/s of the Day – 25 March – The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
“And so when God’s birth is proclaimed to you, keep silent. Let Gabriel’s word be held in your mind for nothing is impossible to this glorious Majesty, who humbled Himself for us and was born of our humanity.”
“God assumed smallness in her – yet without diminishing His nature – to make us great!”
“In her, God spun a garment with which to save us.”
Saint Ephrem (306-373) Father & Doctor
“Him, whom the heavens cannot contain, the womb of one woman bore. She ruled our Ruler, she carried Him, in whom we are, she gave milk to our Bread.”
St Augustine (354-430)
“The scene of the Annunciation merits consideration for another reason, too, it is not only wholly Christological;, it is wholly trinitarian as well… The angel’s initial salutation… brings her the greeting of the ‘Lord’, the Father… she will give birth to the ‘Son of the Most High’… the Holy Spirit will overshadow her…”
Cardinal Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988)
“The Annunciation, recounted at the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel, is a humble, hidden event – no-one saw it, no one except Mary knew of it – but, at the same time, it was crucial to the history of humanity. When the Virgin said her “yes” to the Angel’s announcement, Jesus was conceived and with Him began the new era of history that was to be ratified in Easter as the “new and eternal Covenant”.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus St Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 25 March 2007
Lenten Reflection – 25 March – The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Daily Meditation: Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Today we step out of Lent, in one way.
We are nine months away from Christmas.
This is the feast of the Incarnation – the enfleshment of our God for us.
In Jesus, God entered this world, our world.
This day thereby offers wonderful Lenten graces.
Ahaz has his own plans.
He refuses to ask God for help, because he doesn’t want God’s help.
And, of course, he makes it sound pious.
There’s fruit in that for all of us, whenever we refuse to ask for God’s help.
Mary, on the other hand, is God’s servant.
She is humble and she says “yes.”
And God, for whom “nothing is impossible, does the rest.
I delight to do thy will, O my God, thy law is within my heart.
“The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49)
Saint Ephrem (306-373) Doctor of the Church Sermons on the Mother of God, 2, 93-145
Contemplate Mary, my beloved, see how Gabriel went into her house and her questioning: “How can this be?” The Holy Spirit’s servant gave her this answer: “Nothing is impossible for God, for him, all is easy.” Consider how she believed the word she had heard and said: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.” From that moment the Lord descended in a way known to Him alone, He bestirred Himself and came according to His good pleasure, He entered her without her feeling it and she opened herself to Him without experiencing any suffering. She bore within herself, as a child, Him by whom the world was filled. He descended to become the model that would renew Adam’s ancient image.
And so when God’s birth is proclaimed to you, keep silent. Let Gabriel’s word be held in your mind for nothing is impossible to this glorious Majesty, who humbled Himself for us and was born of our humanity. Today, Mary became God’s heaven for us, in that the sublime Divinity came down and placed His dwelling within her. God assumed smallness in her – yet without diminishing His nature – to make us great. In her, God spun a garment with which to save us. All the words of the prophets and just ones were fulfilled in her. From her, arose the light that drove away the shadows of paganism.
Mary’s titles are numberless… she is the palace in which the mighty King of kings abode, yet He did not cast her out when He came, because it was from her that He took flesh and was born. She is the new heaven in which dwelt the King of kings, in her Christ arose and from her rose up to enlighten creation, formed and fashioned in His image. She is the stock of the vine that bore the grape, she yielded a fruit greater than nature, and He, although other than her in His nature, ripened in colour on being born of her. She is the spring from which living waters sprang up for the thirsty and all those who drank them yielded fruit a hundredfold.
God of infinite love,
I thank You for this feast of our salvation,
right here in the middle of Lent.
I turn to You to beg for Your help.
I need the inspiration and help of Mary on this journey.
Please grant me the grace to be humbly faithful
to what You are calling me to do.
Please give me what I need to be free and to be Your servant.
Please let Mary guide us in the path to peace in our world.
I ask You this, through Jesus our Lord.
May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – 25 March
Again Lent’s austerity is interrupted as we solemnly keep a feast in honour of the Annunciation. The Annunciation is a mystery that belongs to the temporal rather than to the sanctoral cycle in the Church’s calendar. For the feast commemorates the most sublime moment in the history of time, the moment when the Second Divine Person of the most Holy Trinity assumed human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Thus it is a feast of our Lord, even as it is of Mary, although the liturgy centres wholly around the Mother of God.
The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
The Annunciation, a tradition which has come down from the apostolic ages, tells us that the great mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March. It was at the hour of midnight, when the most holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her and asked her, in the name of the blessed Trinity, to consent to become the Mother of God. Let us assist, in spirit, at this wonderful interview between the angel and the Virgin and, at the same time, let us think of that other interview which took place between Eve and the serpent. A holy bishop and martyr of the second century, Saint Irenaeus, who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the apostles, shows us that Nazareth is the counterpart of Eden.
In the garden of delights there is a virgin and an angel and a conversation takes place-between them. At Nazareth a virgin is also addressed by an angel and she answers him but the angel of the earthly paradise is a spirit of darkness and he of Nazareth is a spirit of light. In both instances it is the angel that has the first word. ‘Why,’ said the serpent to Eve, ‘hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?’ His question implies impatience and a solicitation to evil, he has contempt for the frail creature to whom he addresses it but he hates the image of God, which is upon her.
See, on the other hand, the angel of light, see with what composure and peacefulness he approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve and how respectfully he bows himself down before her: ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!’ Such language is evidently of heaven, none but an angel could speak thus to Mary.
Scarcely has the wicked spirit finished speaking than Eve casts a longing look at the forbidden fruit, she is impatient to enjoy the independence it is to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand, she plucks the fruit, she eats it and death takes possession of her, death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life and death of the body, which being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror and finally crumbles into dust.
But let us turn away our eyes from this sad spectacle and fix them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the angel’s explanation of the mystery, the will of heaven is made known to her and how grand an honour it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God and yet, the treasure of her virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will and says to the heavenly messenger: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.’
Thus, as the great St Irenaeus and so many of the holy fathers remark, the obedience of the second Eve repaired the disobedience of the first, for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her fiat, ‘be it done,’ than the eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the chaste womb of Mary and there, He begins His human life. A Virgin is a Mother and Mother of Go; and it is this Virgin’s consenting to the divine will, that has made her conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sublime mystery puts between the eternal Word and a mere woman the relations of Son and Mother, it gives to the almighty God a means whereby He may, in a manner worthy of His majesty, triumph over satan, who hitherto seemed to have prevailed against the divine plan.
Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which this day befell satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of His vengeance, the humiliation of satan would not have been great enough and, therefore, she who was the first prey of hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph, is that Mary, is to be superior not only to the rebel angels but to the whole human race, yea, to all the angels of heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her and in heaven, the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary and deem themselves honoured when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God.
Therefore, is it that we, the children of Adam, who have been snatched by Mary’s obedience from the power of hell, solemnise this day of the Annunciation. Well may we say of Mary those words of Debbora, when she sang her song of victory over the enemies of God’s people: ‘The valiant men ceased and rested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and He Himself overthrew the gates of the enemies.” Let us also refer to the holy Mother of Jesus these words of Judith, who by her victory over the enemy was another type of Mary: ‘Praise ye the Lord our God, who hath not forsaken them that hope in Him. And by me, His handmaid, He hath fulfilled His mercy, which He promised to the house of Israel and He hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night. . . . The almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.’
–Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger OSB
Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Solemnity): The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the Archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus, c 431 and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (died 496). The Annunciation is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Jan Van Eyck, Philippe de Champaigne (1 and 2 below), Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, Titian (2nd last below), Tintoretto (last below) and Del Sarto.
Our Lady of Betania: Actually the name Betania means Bethany in Spanish. It was originally given this name by Maria Esperanza and was the site of their farm, in Venezuela. Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary were reported and eventually a small chapel was built here and the faithful began to gather, especially on Feast Days but throughout the year.
St Alfwold of Sherborne
St Barontius of Pistoia
St Desiderius of Pistoia
St Dula the Slave
Bl Emilian Kovch
Bl Everard of Nellenburg
Bl Herman of Zahringen
St Humbert of Pelagius
Bl James Bird
Bl Josaphata Mykhailyna Hordashevska
St Kennocha of Fife
St Lucia Filippini
St Margaret Clitherow
Bl Margaretha Flesch
St Mariam Sultaneh Danil Ghattas
St Matrona of Barcelona
St Matrona of Thessaloniki
St Mona of Milan
St Ndre Zadeja
Bl Pawel Januszewski
St Pelagius of Laodicea
Bl Placido Riccardi
St Quirinus of Rome
Bl Tommaso of Costacciaro
262 Martyrs of Rome: A group 262 Christians martyred together in Rome. We know nothing else about them, not even their names.