The Feast of the Annunciation occurs, fittingly, nine months before the Feast of the Nativity. It signals Gabriel’s visitation to Our Lady, where she would give her fiat (“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.”), showing Mary’s first cooperation with the Divine Will of God. This feast simultaneously celebrates the Hypostatic Union, for as a result of Mary’s acceptance of the Divine Will, the Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary and brought forth the union of God the son and our humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:
The Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus in His human nature. Through His mother He is a member of the human race. If the virginity of Mary before, during, and after the conception of her Divine Son was always considered part of the deposit of faith, this was done only on account of the historical facts and testimonials. The Incarnation of the Son of God did not in itself necessitate this exception from the laws of nature. Only reasons of expediency are given for it, chiefly, the end of the Incarnation. About to found a new generation of the children of God, The Redeemer does not arrive in the way of earthly generations: the power of the Holy Spirit enters the chaste womb of the Virgin, forming the humanity of Christ. Many holy fathers (Sts. Jerome, Cyril, Ephrem, Augustine) say that the consent of Mary was essential to the redemption. It was the will of God, St. Thomas says (Summa III:30), that the redemption of mankind should depend upon the consent of the Virgin Mary. This does not mean that God in His plans was bound by the will of a creature, and that man would not have been redeemed, if Mary had not consented. It only means that the consent of Mary was foreseen from all eternity, and therefore was received as essential into the design of God.
Enjoy prayers in honor of Our Lady’s Annunciation, beginning with the Angelus. The Angelus is special to this today, but is traditionally said each day of the year, at noon.
V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae;
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
V. Ecce ancilla Domini.
R. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
V. Et Verbum caro factum est.
R. Et habitavit in nobis.
V. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Oremus: Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.
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 amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
V. And the Word was made flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.
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. R. Amen.
O Beata Virgo Maria, quis tibi digne valeat iura gratiarum ac laudum praeconia rependere, quae singulari tuo assensu, mundo succurristi perdito? Quas tibi laudes fragilitas humani generis persolvat, quae solo tuo commercio recuperandi aditum invenit?
Accipe itaque quascumque exiles, quascumque meritis tuis impares gratiarum actiones, et cum susceperis vota, culpas nostras orando excusa. Admitte nostras preces intra sacrarium exauditionis et reporta nobis antidotum reconciliationis. Sit per te excusabile quod per te ingerimus; fiat impetrabile quod fida mente poscimus.
Accipe quod offerimus, redona quod rogamus, excusa quod timemus, quia Tu es spes unica peccatorum. Per te speramus veniam delictorum et in te, beatissima, nostrorum est expectatio praemiorum. Sancta Maria, succurre miseris; iuva pusillanimes; refove flebiles; ora pro populo; interveni pro clero; intercede pro devoto femineo sexu: sentiant omnes tuum iuvamen, quicumque celebrant tuam sanctam commemorationem.
Assiste parata votis poscentium et reporta nobis optatum effectum. Sint tibi studia assidua orare pro populo Dei, quae meruisti, benedicta, Redemptorem ferre mundi, qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay thee thy just dues of praise and thanksgiving, thou who by the wondrous assent of thy will didst rescue a fallen world? What songs of praise can our weak human nature recite in thy honor, since it is by thy intervention alone that it has found the way to restoration?
Accept, then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, though they be unequal to thy merits; and, receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offenses. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the antidote of our reconciliation. May the sins we bring before Almighty God through thee, become pardonable through thee; may what we ask for with sure confidence, through thee be granted.
Take our offering, grant us our requests, obtain pardon for what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the remission of our sins, and in thee, O blessed Lady, is our hope of reward. Holy Mary, succor the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection.
Be thou ever ready to assist us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it thy continual care to pray for the people of God, thou who, blessed by God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
O Emmanuel, God with us! Who, as Thy Church says in her Hymn, “being to take upon thee to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb,” the whole human race gives thanks to Thee, on this day, for Thy merciful coming. O Eternal Word of the Father! it was not enough for thee to have drawn man out of nothing, by Thy power; Thine exhaustless love would follow him even to the abyss of misery, into which he had fallen. By sin, man had forfeited the dignity Thou hadst given him; that he might regain it, Thou didst come in person and assume his nature, so to raise him up again to Thyself. In Thee, from this day forward unto all eternity, God is made man, and man is made God. Thy Incarnation is the fulfilment of the promises made in the Canticle; Thou unitest Thyself to human nature, and it is in the virginal womb of a daughter of David that Thou celebratest these ineffable espousals. O incomprehensible humiliation! O ineffable glory! The humiliation is for the Son of God, the glory is for the son of man. Thus hast Thou loved us, O Divine Word! thus hast Thou removed from us the degradation of our fall! The rebel angels fell, and thou didst leave them in the abyss; we fell, and thou hadst mercy on us. A single look of Thy pity would have sufficed to save us; but it would not satisfy Thy love: therefore didst Thou descend into this world of sin, take upon Thyself the form of a slave (Philipp. ii. 7.), and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh! Who comest not to judge, but to save (St. John, xii. 47.)! we adore Thee, we praise Thee, we love Thee. Make us worthy of all that Thy love has led Thee to do for us.
We salute thee, O Mary, full of grace, on this the day whereon thou didst receive thy sublime dignity of Mother of God. Thy incomparable purity drew down upon thee the love of the great Creator, and thy humility drew Him into thy womb; His presence within thee increased the holiness of thy spirit and the purity of thy body. What must have been thy happiness in knowing that this Son of God was living by thy life, and was taking from thine own substance the new being, which His love for us induced Him to assume! Between thee and Him is formed that ineffable union which is granted to none else but to thee: He is thy Creator, and thou art His Mother; He is thy Son, and thou art his Creature. Every knee bows down before Him, O Mary! for He is the great God of heaven and earth; but every creature reveres thee, also, for thou hast carried Him in thy womb, thou hast fed him at thy breast; thou alone canst say to him, as does His heavenly Father: Thou art my Son! O Mother of Jesus! thou art the greatest of God’s works: receive the humble homage of mankind, for thou art most dear to us, seeing that thou art of the same flesh and blood as ourselves. Thou art a Daughter of Eve, but without her sin. By thy obedience to the divine decrees, thou savest thy mother and her race; thou restorest Adam and his children to the innocence they had lost. Jesus, Whom thou bearest in thy womb, is our pledge that all these blessings are to be ours; and it is by thee that He comes to us. Without Jesus, we should abide in death; without thee, we should not have had Him to redeem us. It is from thy virginal womb that He receives the precious Blood which is to be our ransom, that Blood whose purity He protected in thy Immaculate Conception, and which becomes the Blood of God by the union, that is consummated in thee, of the Divine with the Human Nature.
Today, O Mary! is fulfilled in thee the promise made by God after Adam’s sin, that he would put enmity between the Woman and the Serpent. Up to this time, the human race had not the courage to resist the enemy; it was subservient to him, and everywhere were altars raised up in his honour; but, on this day, his head is crushed beneath thy foot. Thy humility, thy purity, thy obedience, have conquered him; his tyranny is checked. By thee we are delivered from his sway; and nothing but our own perversity and ingratitude could again give him the mastery. Let not this be, O Mary! Come to our assistance. During this Season of repentance, we humbly acknowledge that we have abused the grace of God; we beseech thee, on this the Feast of thy Annunciation, intercede for us with Him, Who, on this day, became thy Son. Holy Mother of God! by the salutation addressed to thee by the Angel Gabriel, by thy virginal fear, by thy fidelity to God, by thy prudent humility, by thy consent, obtain for us conversion of heart, and sincere repentance; prepare us for the great Mysteries we are about to celebrate. These Mysteries are so full of sorrow to thy maternal heart; and yet thou wouldst have us rejoice on this day, as we think on the ineffable happiness which filled thy soul at the solemn moment when the Holy Ghost overshadowed thee, and the Son of God became thine. Yes, Blessed Mother of Jesus! we will spend the whole of this day near thee, in thy humble dwelling at Nazareth. Nine months hence, we will follow thee to Bethlehem, and there, in company with the Shepherds and the Angels, we will prostrate ourselves in adoration before the InfantGod, our Saviour: we will join our voices with those of the heavenly host, and we will thus express our gladness: Glory be to God in the highest! and peace on earth to men of good will!