Lay Dominicans of Dallas & Fort Worth | Southern Province ~ St. Martin de Porres

Category: Advent

The Mystery of the Annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation of the Son of God

Reflections on Mary’s Response to the Father’s Mercy, a Model for Lay Dominicans.

This article is the fruit of my personal reflection on the mystery of the Annunciation to Mary in the light of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. I have taken into account the writings of the Church on this doctrine, the preaching and writings of so many pastors throughout my life, and the Scripture passages that, in my opinion, shed light on the daily attitude of our Mother Mary, the first disciple of Christ. Mary, who was not a nun, but a lay woman living in the world, is an example of life on our way to holiness for us, the laity, who also live in the world. It was preached during the Advent retreat for the professed, candidates and inquirers of the Chapter of the Lay Dominican Fraternity of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, Irving, TX. USA.


“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” (Lk. 1:26-29)

The announcement of the Incarnation of the Son of God to Mary and her implicit divine motherhood is preceded by the goodness of God, who reveals to her the mercy with which He has graced her. No passage or verse of Sacred Scripture is superfluous. And in this case, the Holy Spirit wants to draw our loving attention to a particular sign: Mary’s confusion in the face of the angel’s unusual greeting. It is a sign for us, the hearers of the Gospel. Her confusion reveals the Father’s abundant mercy toward her. She is not disturbed by the angel’s presence, but by the greeting he addresses to her. This leads her to wonder what that greeting might be, or in our modern parlance, “Why does he greet me by that name?” The angel does not greet her by her name according to the flesh, for he does not say, Hail, Mary! but he says to her, Hail, Full of Grace! “Full of Grace” is not said here as an adjective describing Mary’s quality. The angel uses “Full of Grace” as her proper name[1], revealing from the beginning who she is.

The angel’s greeting is the revelation of the Father’s mercy. It is the mystery of the redemption of the world that begins with Mary’s personal redemption. In His mercy and in view of the expected merits of Jesus Christ, the Father grants Mary from her conception the new name spoken of in the book of Revelation: To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white stone[2] upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Rev 2:17) The manna is the grace of God that moves Mary’s charity to promptly perform all the actions of daily life to unite more closely with God. The white stone signifies that she has conquered sin and has been found innocent because she lives, is, and moves under the influence of grace. Mary’s soul is God’s secret; her desires and life intention are His alone: My lover belongs to me and I to him.” (Song 2:16). Similarly, her body is the instrument of her loving soul, whose actions are guided by charity to obey God’s command to God and neighbor. Everything in her belongs to Him; she is the Virgin of virgins. This is why the Song of Songs calls Mary “an enclosed garden, a sealed fountain” (Song 4:12), who knows no one but God. This is not her own work, but the work of the Father and His Christ, who together make all things new: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5), first in Mary, then in us.

 Mary has known no other way of existence than to exist in God’s abundant grace. Her personality was completely shaped by this grace. But her greatness as Full of Grace consists not in not sinning, but in obeying the demands of divine grace without delay or hesitation in the chores and tasks of her daily life, however simple they may seem. The Father loves her and guides her always. She is His Beloved Daughter because, following the example of her son Jesus Christ, she always does the Father’s will. “He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” (Jn. 8:29) Mary does not waste time looking at the circumstances of daily life. She worships God, whom she wants to obey. She has no time for introspection. Every day she cooperates with the fullness of the grace given to her, developing the personality and mind of Christ. Like Him, she is constantly focused on the Father and in everything follows her Divine Son, whose disciple she is. Mary, the most obedient to the Father’s will, is His Beloved Daughter and therefore chosen to be the Mother of God. “He who does the will of my Father is my brother, my sister and my Mother.” (Mt 12:50) The Father wants Mary to hear from the angel that she is His Beloved Daughter. That out of love for her, He raises her up to be the Mother of the only Son of the Father. Through the angel’s unusual greeting, she understands that although she is the handmaid of the Lord, the Father has called her and filled her with His goodness –plenitude of grace– to be the Mother of Life and of all the living.

In the Litany of Loreto, the Church calls Mary the Mirror of Justice testifying that her person and personality correspond to justice. God’s grace makes her faithful and her faithfulness in turn allows grace to continually justify her. This ejaculatory prayer teaches us that Mary has developed in herself the personality of grace, obedient to the will of the Father, as Scripture says, “all who are led by the Holy Spirit are children of God.” (Rom. 8:14) Mary was so purely created by God’s mercy that when St. Bernadette asked her at Lourdes who she was, Mary proclaimed, I am the Immaculate Conception. Before the Annunciation, Mary did not know the truth of God’s special redemption of her being at the moment of her conception, but she has always lived according to that truth. It was the angel who revealed it to her through the joyful greeting, hence her surprise at the angel’s words. From the first moment of her existence, she has been elevated to the Kingdom of God, which is grace itself.

The Father’s mercy toward Mary extends to us, His children. The mystery of Mary is the mystery of the Church and to some extent our personal mystery as well. The existence of Mary’s soul and body proclaims the fidelity of the Father to her, who created her out of a greater love than for all other creatures. He created her by redeeming her through the blood of His only Son, who suffered more for her alone than for all the other children of Adam. The Church proclaims this truth in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.[3] It is the truth about Mary revealed in the angel’s greeting, pondered by Mary, and received by Tradition. A truth about Mary that the Holy Spirit, in His wisdom and mercy to us, makes explicit in today’s Church, to lead us to the end of time, to the Parousia or coming of Christ, the Lord. In showing us that Mary has always acted under the impulse of her fullness of grace, the Holy Spirit urges us to do the same with the measure of grace that the Father’s mercy has given us. Either we are disciples of the grace working in us, or we simply refrain from living as God’s adopted children and have nothing to do with the only Son of the Father. “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory and with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)

SELF-EXAM: On fidelity to our vocation as Lay Dominicans

– Which personality characterizes you more: that of grace, that of the flesh, that of the world, or that of sin?

– Your promise, temporary or permanent, as a member of the Lay Dominican Fraternity is only the starting point of your journey to holiness. Are you working every day to let grace shape your personality? Or was your profession just a nice ceremony, with no transcendence or merit for heaven, and are you still the same as you were before the profession?

– Does your conscience assure you that you are another Christ? As St. John says: He who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But he who obeys his word, in him the love of God is truly full. This is how we know that we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live like Jesus. (1 John 2:4-6)

– What use do you make of Christ’s grace as a professed member or candidate? Are you holier today than you were yesterday? How fervent, mediocre, or stagnant is your life of grace today?

– What will you do to faithfully live the rule of life and constitutions of the Lay Dominican Fraternity in which you believe you will find salvation?


“Do not be afraid Mary, for you have been graced by God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus -for He shall save his people from their sins-. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk 1: 30-34)

      The message Mary received from the angel is “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) It explicitly announces the coming in the flesh of the Messiah-King, son of David and son of God. It proclaims the mystery of the cross contained in Jesus’ name: “who will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21) The Gospel of Jesus always requires the cooperation of its hearers, either to reject the message or to adhere to it. It requires the cooperation of Mary’s body, “you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Lk 1:31), and especially of her soul, for it requires her faith in the mystery of the Cross, “for you shall call his name Jesus.” (Lk 1:31) God demands all or nothing from Mary, either she gathers with Christ or she scatters the grace of God. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Lk 11:23) God has spoken his will to Mary and her heart full of grace is more willing than ever to engage. Mary rejoices when she speaks, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let me be done according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) God acts the same way with all his children. Once God has clearly revealed His will to one of His creatures, there is no turning back. His will is accepted or rejected. There are no gray areas in the growth of grace in us. We are the ones limiting its growth. “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Everything else comes from the evil one.” (Mt. 5:37)

      For Mary, the angel’s message that she hears and ponders is not about her, but about the Son she will conceive. Mary’s heart does not reduce the angel’s message to the simple gift of her becoming the Mother of God. True faith is not based on any gift from God, no matter how exalted. For Mary, what matters is the will of the Father who wants to redeem the world and associate her with the Savior and his redemptive mission. She assumes all the consequences of her divine motherhood, a bittersweet prerogative. But for her, everything is circumstantial except the Father’s will. “I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” (Rev. 10:9) “…let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)

      The message of the Annunciation does not come from the angel, for he is only the messenger. It is the Son of God Himself who, as the eternal Word of the Father, proclaims the Gospel to Mary by the humble means of His messenger. The divine way is always a humble way. The angel’s presence adds nothing to the message. He serves the eternal Word of God by hiding His divine splendor so that Mary is not overwhelmed by the sight of His glory. Nor does the angel change Mary’s status as a wayfarer. He serves her only as a companion on her journey of faith. In God’s Divine Providence, the angel’s presence enables Mary to freely obey in the non-vision of faith. “Although you have not seen him you love him; even if you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pt 1:8-9) In heaven, bowed down by the majesty and weight of the Father’s love, we will promptly and peacefully do His will. In that beatitude, we will surrender fully and unreservedly to the will of the Father who reveals Himself to us face to face. Meanwhile, here on earth, we see dimly through the flesh and blood of the Son of God. It is our condition as wayfarers that limits us to only hearing and touching the Word of Life through the limitations of His human condition. What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life, for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testified to it and proclaimed to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us.” (1 Jn. 1: 1-2)

      Mary heard but did not see the splendor of the Word of God speaking to her through His messenger. She believed without seeing. She believed because she loved. “Blessed are you who have believed that what the Lord said to you will be fulfilled.” (Lk. 1:45) Faith is the ear that God has given us to obey and be guided through the difficulties of the present world. Despite the fact that we are intelligent creatures, we are asked not to see, but to hear; otherwise, we remain in our sins. (Jn. 10:39) Those who believe accept not to see. A test that Adam and Eve did not pass, preferring to see with their minds, to understand their lives on their own terms and with their own prudence. The measure of their love of self is the effort they made to gain knowledge. They love their knowledge with pride, rather than believing without seeing. These are people -maybe ourselves- who pass for good people, with great work ethics, impeccable manners, and as caring as the most concerned social worker. All in the name of Christ, but they do not accept the wisdom that comes from above. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’…” (Mt. 7:21-23) Mary, on the other hand, hears but does not see the splendor of the Word of God that spoke to her through His messenger. For her, as for us, faith causes us to turn around to hear the voice of the Shepherd who speaks to us but whom we do not see. We are led into the darkness (Psalm 23) ablaze with the Fear of God, for “in your light, we see the light.” (Psalm 36:6)

      After the Ascension of Jesus, even the comforting presence of His tangible Humanity has been taken away from us. From now and until the end of time, our hearing and touching of the Word of Life are done through the limitations of His Body the Church, and through each of her members. We no longer have sensory signs other than the preaching of the Word, the liturgy, and the sacraments. For there are no longer angels to listen to; now it is the pastors of His Church to whom we must turn to receive the will of the Father. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.” (Mt 10:40)  

SELF-EXAMINATION: On prayer and personal study, pillars of our Dominican vocation

      Regarding the Word of God, St. Jerome says that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, who speaks to us in the humble pages of the Bible. As the splendor of the Word spoke to Mary through the humble means of an angel, so the Holy Spirit enlightens every day those who feed on the Word of God.

      Reading the Bible is not a matter of gaining information about God. Faith, on the other hand, make us touch the Word of Life through the pages of the Bible, the liturgy, and the preaching of the Scriptures by the pastors of the Church. If we do not know the Scriptures, we cannot touch the Word of God in our personal prayer. Every time we pray attentively, the Holy Spirit leads us to the bosom of the Father, where Christ is. There He enlightens us on the mysteries we need to know for our daily life. There is nothing extraordinary about reading with recollection, praying, and meditating on the Words of the Lord as we go about in our daily tasks and chores. This constancy and perseverance transform us into prudent virgins waiting to be spoused to the Lamb.

      The illumination of our minds and hearts by the Spirit is proportional to our effort in the daily reading of God’s Word in the Bible. In our daily lives, the Holy Spirit reveals to us riches of knowledge, wisdom, and counsel through the mysteries of Scripture we read, study and ponder. But as a rule, He leaves us ignorant of those mysteries we do not bother to know or even read. “For to him who has, more will be given, and he will have abundantly; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matt. 13:12)

[1] Pope St. John Paul II, in his homily on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, referred to the following words: “Full of grace”, “κεχαριτωµευη”: in the original Greek of Luke’s Gospel, the Angel greets Mary with this title. It is the name that God, through his messenger, chose to use to describe the Virgin. This is how he had always seen and thought of her, ab aeterno (from all eternity).

[2] For the Bible quotes in this article, I used the Saint Joseph edition of the New American Bible. In this quote, the text reads “amulet” instead of white “stone.” However, the footnotes state that literally read from the Greek it should be “stone.” I have freely adopted the literal use of the Greek word here.

[3] See also Pope St. John Paul II’s June 12, 1996 General Audience on the Dogmatic Definition of the Privilege of the Immaculate Conception for a broader explanation of the dogma, which this article does not seek to provide.

The Nativity Narrative of Luke

Johannes Tauler OP describes the Nativity as a kind of three births.  A trinity that, for Tauler, symbolically reflects the Divine Trinity and finds expression in each individual person who makes herself available to the interior movements of the Holy Spirit. The first is the paternal birth, of God begetting His only Son “within the Divine essence.”  The second birth is of Maternal fruitfulness and purity.  The third is “effected when God is born within a just soul every day and every hour truly and spiritually, by grace and out of love.”  These “three births,” captured within the nativity, bestow upon mankind:

  1. A paternal outpouring of love that holds nothing back.  As Tauler poetically describes in his Christmas sermon, “And so He turns inward, comprehending Himself, and He flows outward in the generation of His Image (that is His Son), which He has known and comprehended.  And again, He returns to Himself in perfect self-delight.  And this delight streams forth as ineffable love, and that ineffable love is the Holy Spirit.  Thus, God turns inward, goes outward, and returns to Himself again.”
  2. The maternal reflection and interiorization of the Father’s Grace.  This manifestation finds perfection in the soul of Mary, as Augustine describes; “Mary was more blessed because God was born spiritually in her soul than because He was born from her in the flesh.”  Her soul was virginal and pure, and this is the state that may bring about God’s birth within each of our souls.  It is a purity concerned primarily with internal movement, bearing within itself invisible fruit—this is the construction of the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit within one’s heart.
  3. Finally, the Nativity, delivered in the silence of our being, where in our humility we make the room necessary to receive our guest, purifies the three faculties of our spirit, as Tauler explains, “memory, understanding, and free will.  With their aid the soul is able to grasp God and to partake of Him.”  In this process the soul is cleansing itself of the temporal things that the fall of Adam has inclined in our hearts to pursue.  This is a necessary reversal, and it is one that Augustine implores in us to, “Pour out that you may be filled to go out of yourself, so that you may enter.”  As Tauler asks, “does God leave anything empty, so contrary is this to His nature and to His ordinance.”

As an historical event, the Nativity arose from the Thundering Silence of a humble manger in Bethlehem.  An event that, in time and space, midwifed more than a decade of peace.  As Saint Bede the Venerable demonstrates from Luke 2:1, “But there could be no greater sign of peace than for the whole world to be brought together under one taxing, while its ruler Augustus reigned with so great peace for twelve years, about the time of our Lord’s nativity, that war having been quelled throughout the whole world, there seemed to be a literal fulfillment of the Prophet’s prediction, They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”  May the silence in which the Logos was made flesh penetrate our hearts, planting itself in the fertile soil of our souls, and may it usher in an era of peace so eloquently described by the prophet Isaiah:

He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.

(Isaiah 2:4)

The Visitation

A Prayer to Mary, Mother of Advent from Saint Pope John Paul II

May the Virgin Mary help us to open the doors of our hearts to Christ, Redeemer of man and of history; may she teach us to be humble, because God looks upon the lowly; may she enable us to grow in understanding the value of prayer, of inner silence, of listening to God’s Word; may she spur us to seek God’s will deeply and sincerely, even when this upsets our plans; may she encourage us while we wait for the Lord, sharing our time and energies with those in need. Mother of God, Virgin of expectation, grant that the God-who-comes will find us ready to receive the abundance of his mercy. May Mary Most Holy, “Woman of the Eucharist” and Virgin of Advent, prepare us all to joyfully welcome Christ’s coming and to celebrate worthily his sacramental presence in the mystery of the Eucharist.


The intent of the Advent season, as Catholics, is to prepare for the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have begun another Liturgical Church year.

The readings of the Mass at the beginning of Advent prepare us for the second coming of Christ, in his glory, in Easter.

From December 17 to December 24, the readings then focus on preparing us for Christ’s coming at Christmas.

Of course, on December 24, the Christmas season begins. The season ends with Jesus’ Baptism on January 8, 2023. As always, every day we should be ready to receive and recognize Jesus’ presence and hopefully, his reign in the grace-filled moments of our life (and often those painful moments of suffering that we will have in our journeys).

One of the aspects that we should contemplate and, indeed, rejoice in – is Mary’s role in our salvation.

In the Mass readings of the Advent and Christmas seasons, Mary appears more often than at any other time in the Church year because she is the mother of Jesus who gave the Divine Jesus a human nature.

Mary, like her Son, was fully open to doing God’s will. Mary and Joseph remind us of the crucial importance of the family as the domestic Church in the day-to-day process of raising their family.

So many of today’s problems are being brought to Jesus and Mary:

On May 17, 1846, the bishops of the United States proclaimed Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception, as the principal patroness of our country.

On May 1, 2020, the bishops of our country and Canada reconsecrated their countries to Mary under the title of Mary, Mother of the Church.

The United States and their brother Canadian bishops especially sought the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, for strength in the struggle against COVID-19, looting, rioting, abortion, worldwide religious persecution, and loss of respect for God and others.

According to paragraph 101 and 102 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, through all the words of sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single word: Jesus.

101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: “Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men.”63

102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64

Christ is the Father’s one utterance in whom He expresses Himself completely.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the unique word of God who is the center of human history.

Mary gave birth to Jesus so that He could redeem us from our sins, teach us how to love as He loved, and offer us the gift of Heaven.

We are all called to be disciples and to share the news of that gift with others. Jesus gave the Great Commission and commanded us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Mary is considered the first (and many would argue the greatest?) disciple for multiple reasons. One key reason is for a segment in Luke’s gospel.

For this session – to provide for contemplation and reflection for what will I hope, help us in preparation for making the remainder of our Advents as personally fruitful as possible we will be talking about The Visitation.

As a reminder, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a reference to the biblical event of Mary visiting her cousin, Elizabeth. This event is narrated in the Gospel of Luke. [Lk. 1:36, 39-45]    

The Angel, Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to our Lady. In that Gospel it reads:

“Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren” ... During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Let’s examine the elements of the scripture as well as relate those lines to our lives in today’s day and age.

Past – Making the Past relevant in today’s Advent

One of the key elements of Mary’s life that many Christians today ignore, don’t realize, or deny (especially those who may be reluctant to draw close to Mary); is that she was deeply present at many (if not each) critical points in Jesus’ life. From his conception to his crucifixion and ascension and beyond. How many people in our lives can we say that about? Our own mothers are present in some of the pivotal moments – but MOST or ALL of them? Give it thought as we progress, but let’s start with Mary’s role as the “First Evangelizer”.

Quite soon after the archangel, Gabriel had appeared to the young teenage girl in Galilee to announce that she would give birth to the Divine Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary left to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Christ’s forerunner.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste

Mary was early in her pregnancy. I know from participation that the early stages of pregnancy for women can be quite unpleasant. My lovely wife, Renée, suffered with rather severe morning sickness with both of our children for quite some time. We can speculate that Our Lady may not have been plagued with morning sickness (similar to her lack of suffering from labor pains thanks to her immaculate conception – and freedom from sin) – but, putting that aside completely – the journey was about 90 miles from Nazareth to Ein Karem – where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.  Even in the best of conditions, that would not have been a simple journey (especially for a teenage female). A journey of about a week (even in haste).

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit

As Elizabeth reported, the unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped with joy in his mother’s womb when he found himself in the presence of our Savior and Our Lady. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts to speak the truth and continue the work that Jesus began, which is to bring us closer to God. One gift is the gift of prophecy. Elizabeth prophesied, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Because only through the Holy Spirit could she know that Jesus is Blessed – and our savior (her Lord has come to her).

The blessing that Elizabeth pronounces is like two prayers that come from Jewish prayer from the Torah. Judges 5:24 – (“Most blessed of women is Jael”). [Jdt. 13:18] – (“Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies.”). The blessings on the Old Testament heroines set the stage for the blessing on the Virgin Mary. Also, an Echo of the Protoevangelium in [Gn. 3:15].

As a devout Jew, Mary understood this. The important element that Luke wanted to ensure in the writing of this chapter was the understanding that Elizabeth is proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah. John the Baptist started laying straight the path at that moment, and the Old Testament, again, is being fulfilled.

How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Additionally, there is a linkage between Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament to the New Testament through Elizabeth’s statement “How does this happen to me… and David’s cry in [2Sam 6:9] “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” It’s as if Elizabeth is the role of David and Mary as the new tabernacle. Additionally, when Mary enters the house of Zechariah – it is the fulfillment of the Ark entering the house of Obed-edom the Gittite [2Sam. 6:10), where “David came dancing before the Lord with abandon” [2Sam. 6:14] in conjunction with John the Baptist dancing in utero.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled

Elizabeth pronounces a final blessing. It shows that Mary is blessed with her faith. I often think of Mary as exalted and high above us (as is proper) – but ultimately, she has the same virtues that we have access to – she is a creature – especially that virtue of faith. We need to believe in God as she did – and we will be blessed as well.

Our Lady then chants The Canticle:

The Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is His name.

His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear Him.

He has shown might with His arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry He has filled with good things;

the rich He has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,

remembering His mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers,

Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary sings the Magnificat – it can be compared to the Song of Hannah – [1Sam.]. where Hannah conceives a son and sings a song of vindication.

Mary’s song sounds like the Psalms (102 and 103) where God exercises his strength, and his people are protected. The Magnificat is a reflection of Mary’s soul. The victory that she sings about is brought to fruition through Christ in the fulfillment of his ministry.

The Song of Hannah

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies,

for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord;

there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance,

for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.

The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for food,

but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The Lord brings death and makes alive;

he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth;

he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,

but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Lastly, Mary stayed at Elizabeth and Zechariah’s house for three months, just as the Ark of the Covenant stayed at Obed-edom’s house for three months.

After those three months, Mary returned to Nazareth, most likely accompanied by St. Joseph. By this time, Joseph must have had peace of mind regarding the pregnancy of Mary because of his vision of the angel in a dream. [Mt. 1:19-25]

Why is this all important?

Now one would think that traditionally (I certainly thought), this feast has been officially celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389.

On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.

This schism was also known as “The Papal Schism, the Great Occidental Schism, The Schism of 1378, Magnum Schisma Occidentale, Ecclesiae Occidentalis Schisma, and my favorite – The Vatican Standoff (which sounds like an old Western Movie).

I really shouldn’t joke – because if it was happening now – I would be furious. Think about it – it lasted 39 years. From 1378 to 1417 – there was no agreement on who the Pope was.

Imagine the confusion that the people had to tolerate in those days. Traveling was by foot or by horse.  Communication was limited. No telegraph, no newspapers, no telephones, no TV, No Twitter, no Facebook, not even a Parish Bulletin. The faithful would hear of one Pope here and another one there and had no idea what was going on.

Consequently, the Lord Jesus and His Mother visited the Catholic Church and resolved the situation to secure that apostolic succession would continue as we enjoy it today. The schism ended – praise God.

This event (and others) can certainly relate to the confusion that we have in our world today.

We can and should look to the Visitation to clear the path for us in our confusion today. The war and tribulation between countries – Russian and Ukraine (and others). The political division – the hatred that is fomented between the political parties of our own nation. The lack of trust we have between so many of our fellow citizens and our political leaders. The division occurring between families because of the discord in society – as well as the friction within our own churches. We have political leaders that publicly and directly disagree with Catholic teaching yet claim to be devout Catholics. I certainly consider today’s day and age to be a confusing and frustrating time.

A grace-filled Advent is one way that we can help counteract that – and bring some peace to our corner of the world. Sometimes, that peace may be hard to reach.

​For many of us, the Mathew and Luke “infancy narratives,” have been read many times and are understood fully – and may even be a bit “dry”. Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem — not only do we recall and teach these events every year during Advent and Christmas but also every time we pray the Joyful mysteries of the rosary. We know the stories, we know what they illustrate, and we know why they’re important. But knowing the basic bullet points of the New Testament is not enough. We are called to know our Lord more deeply, more intimately. And contemplating them more deeply during this retreat and throughout the rest of our advent may help bring us closer to Christ, and closer to peace.

There is an excellent reflection in Dei Verbum. As a reminder, Dei Verbum is the shortest but may be considered the most important and influential document of Vatican II. Its purpose was to spell out the Church’s understanding of the nature of revelation – the process whereby God communicates with humans. It summarizes, in less than fifteen pages the most important truths about the Word of God, divine Revelation, and Biblical studies.

Dei Verbum compares the gift of Scripture to the gift of the Incarnation: “for the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men”.

This Advent, let us return to the infancy narratives – and especially the Visitation, with fresh eyes.

So how can we strive for peace in today’s day? With three actions. There is power in three (like the Holy Trinity). The actions we can take are also Mary’s threefold approach in the Visitation – With Reverent Joy, Scripture, and Service: 
With reverent joy: Mary’s joy was evident in her anticipation of the Lord. She travels “in haste” to Elizabeth and when she arrives, begins a joyful song of praise (Luke 1:39). She is “full of grace”. There’s no room for anything but praise and thanksgiving. It overwhelms, overflows, “overshadows” (Luke 1:35) — a word we also hear in association with Mary when the Holy Spirit blesses her with child.

With Scriptures: Remember, when Mary enters the house to see her cousin Elizabeth, she begins her prayer – her song the “Magnificat,” which is so similar to Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 2:1-10). It is considered by some historians that Mary very likely could not read, and yet, it seems that the miraculous story of Hannah’s conception of Samuel is the first thing that comes to mind when Mary sees her pregnant cousin. Mary has been raised in the scriptures. They shape the way she sees the world.

This Advent, let us challenge ourselves on our own journeys toward Bethlehem with some sort of scriptural program as our guide. We should pray parts of the Divine Office, pray with the Sunday mass readings using Lectio Divina, or explore some unique journey that may speak to you directly.

With Service: Serve our family members and those closest to us: One of the first things Mary does when she finds out she is pregnant is hasten to her cousin Elizabeth to help her! Even though Mary is in the early stages of pregnancy herself — and probably feeling sick and certainly tired — she puts all of that aside. How can we serve those closest to us this season? While it’s always good (and we are called) to serve those we don’t know, our loved ones require a special kind of patience and affection from us, especially during the holidays. Let’s consider the ways we can serve those in our closest circles who are forgotten or who have hurt us in the past. Reconciliation goes a long way to helping us see the face of Christ in others.

As we hasten through the commotion of shopping, visiting, and end-of-year work activities that will most certainly fill our Advent and work calendars this season, take that critical time each day to spend time with God in prayer. Contemplate the Magnificat – or if I could be so bold, I would recommend using the Hallow App to help guide you through various and adaptable meditations (this is not a paid advertisement).

As you reflect, imagine a young Mary, happy and radiant before gray-haired Elizabeth – and try to imagine the feelings of joy and wonder that Mary must have felt at that point. Then ask the Lord to help you focus on that wonder as you continue through advent and prepare a place for him. Let your soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord this Advent, through joy, Scripture, and service. 

Ending Prayer

St. Alphonsus De Liguori

Immaculate and Blessed Virgin, since thou art the universal dispenser of all divine graces, thou art the hope of all, and my hope. I will ever thank my Lord for having granted me the grace to know thee, and for having shown me the means by which I may obtain graces and be saved. Thou art this means, O great Mother of God; for I now understand that it is principally through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, that my soul must be saved. Ah! my Queen, thou didst hasten so greatly to visit, and by that means didst sanctify the dwelling of Saint Elizabeth; deign, then, to visit, and visit quickly, the poor house of my soul. Ah! hasten, then; for thou well knowest, and far better than I do, how poor it is, and with how many maladies it is afflicted; with disordered affections, evil habits, and sins committed, all of which are pestiferous diseases, which would lead it to eternal death. Thou canst enrich it, O Treasurer of God; and thou canst heal all its infirmities. Visit me, then, in life, and visit me especially at the moment of death, for then I shall more than ever require thy aid. I do not indeed expect, neither am I worthy, that thou shouldst visit me on this earth with thy visible presence, as thou hast visited so many of thy servants; but they were not unworthy and ungrateful as I am. I am satisfied to see thee in thy kingdom of heaven, there to be able to love thee more, and thank thee for all that thou hast done for me. At present I am satisfied that thou shouldst visit me with thy mercy; thy prayers are all that I desire.

Pray, then, O Mary, for me, and commend me to thy Son. Thou, far better than I do, knowest my miseries and my wants. What more can I say? Pity me; I am so miserable and ignorant, that I neither know nor can I seek for, the graces that I stand the most in need of. My most sweet Queen and Mother, do thou seek and obtain for me from thy Son those graces which thou knowest to be the most expedient and necessary for my soul. I abandon myself entirely into thy hands, and only beg the Divine Majesty, that by the merits of my Saviour Jesus He will grant me the graces which thou askest Him for me. Ask, ask, then, O most Holy Virgin, that which thou seest best for me; thy prayers are never rejected; they are the prayers of a Mother addressed to a Son, Who loves thee, His Mother; so much, and rejoices in doing all that thou desirest, that He may honour thee more, and at the same time show thee the great love He bears thee. Let us make an agreement, O Lady, that while I live confiding in thee, thou on thy part wilt charge thyself with my salvation. Amen

The Visitation

4th Sunday of Advent

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP

The reading for this coming Sunday is from Luke and is commonly referred to as “The Visitation.” It is in the Visitation that we find the second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary and also part of the prayer known simply as the “Hail Mary.” What can we find in this mystery? Reflection will provide much food for thought. Mary has just been told by Gabriel that her kinswoman, Elizabeth who was called barren, was in her sixth month, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37). Straightaway Mary hastens to her. And something amazing happens.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. (Lk 1:39-44)

There is a lot happening here. When Elizabeth heard the greeting, so did her son, John the Baptist. Consider that John, at around 24 week’s gestation, leapt at the sound of the voice of the mother of God. How could he possibly know that voice, given that this would be the first time he had heard Mary’s voice? Consider that part of the Annunciation story is that Mary left straightaway to visit her kinswoman. She could only have been a week or so into her pregnancy. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit asks, “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” What tipped her off? Mary would not have been visibly pregnant.

What tipped Elizabeth off was John leaping for joy in her womb. John recognized Jesus, even though Jesus Incarnate was less than a handful of cells.

Pause and let that burrow into your mind and heart.

Suffice it to say that this was not one “blob of tissue” responding to another “blob of tissue.” This was a creature recognizing his Creator and responding in joy! Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and shouts what she cannot otherwise have known, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

How fitting this is the second line in the Hail Mary. We first have the announcement of the Incarnation by the angel Gabriel. Then we have the first recognition by Creation (Elizabeth and John) that their Creator has entered into His Creation. Next, Mary responds with a song of praise. We will look at the first two verses. Depending on the translation that is read, you will hear different versions, and, because words matter, they will have different flavors. In the King James Version we have:

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Lk 1:46-47)

Other translations will use “proclaims the greatness” instead of “doth magnify” or “magnifies.” Since Latin is the root of most English multi-syllable words, it is sometimes useful to look at the Latin for some clues to depth of meaning. In Latin it goes like this:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,

We can see where magnify comes from. Dominum is a form of Deo which is God. We can see where spirit comes from. One can see the idea of salvation in salvatore and perhaps pick up the idea of “God my Saviour.”[1] But where does “rejoice” come from? Perhaps you can see the idea of exultation in exsultavit? What about “soul”? The Latin word is anima[2].

Coupled with anima, the interesting words are magnificat and exsultavit. Mary says her soul magnifies the Lord. If God is so great, how can any puny human magnify God?

Think about what happens when you use a magnifying glass. You see details you could not see before. Remember the hiddenness of reality? The magnifying glass is the iconic tool of Sherlock Holmes, used to bring the hidden into the open. Mary’s soul is just such a lens, and what does her soul do? Participates in making God visible. Jesus is coming into the world as living flesh and blood.

All through the Old Testament we hear that no one can look on the face of God and live; that no one has seen God. Later, we have this exchange in the Gospel of John:

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father? (Jn 14:7-9)

If we see Jesus, we see the Father. “My soul doth magnify” indeed.

That translation seems much more appropriate than “My soul proclaims the greatness…” Why do I say this? Because “proclaiming greatness” does not require or even suggest active participation. Proclaiming greatness is simply acknowledging a truth. But Mary’s soul magnifying the Lord is a visceral earthy participation and how else can you describe giving birth? To make God visible, to make God present to the world, requires active participation in God’s plan. Let’s face it, how many saying “God is great” are viscerally making Jesus present to the world? There is a difference between a cheerleader on the sidelines and a player on the field.

Mary also says her spirit rejoices. The Latin word is exsultavit. It is the source of the word “exult”, which is to show or feel elation or jubilation. The Latin means to leap up, and the context is one of excitement. Mary’s soul leaps for joy as does John the Baptist’s. What for?

“…for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Lk 1:48-55)

That’s what for. This song of praise, Lk 1:46-55 and known as the Magnificat, is both prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy. There is cause for great joy. A leaping exultation at centuries of prophecy coming, literally, to fruition. And, as with all new life, the hope for the future.

What else can we learn from thinking about Mary visiting Elizabeth? How about solidarity, how about selflessness? Mary had just been told, in practically the same breath, that she was to carry the Lord even though she knew not man, and that her kinswoman, thought to be barren, was with child. Of all the things a young woman might do in such a situation, she immediately went to Elizabeth? Why?

Perhaps she sensed that Elizabeth would be the only one that could understand her unique situation? Perhaps she knew that Elizabeth, an old pregnant woman, would need help? Perhaps because they both knew this news would be jarring to the public at large? Perhaps the simple need for loving companionship? Perhaps because they both had something to celebrate?

Perhaps the simple instinct for family.

[1] Please note, Mary also required salvation.

[2] Permit a very brief and inadequate excursion into Greek and Latin and overlapping concepts along with some related philosophy. All of this can be found googling the words, and usual warnings about reliability of the internet apply. But, just consider the interrelated ideas. The Latin word anima and the Greek words pneuma and psyche, all translatable in English as soul all also have the concept of wind or breath in common. What separates the living from non-living, oversimplified, is an exchange of air. Even plants do this exchange despite the fact they have no lungs. In this way you can perhaps see how the Latin anima becomes the basis for words like animated, animal, etc. It is the animating principle. For the Ancient Greeks, there were three kinds of animating principles: vegetative, sensitive, and rational. By this they distinguished between plant, animal and human life. This animating principle, this life force, is what we call the soul and it is God breathed (Gen 2:7).

Life from life.


Advent Reflection

Third Week of Advent

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