The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Missa “Rorate caeli desuper“
This feast, which in recent times has been kept not only throughout the whole of Spain, but also in many other parts of the Catholic world, owes its origin to the bishops of the 10th Council of Toledo, in 656. These prelates thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation on the 25th of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of Our Lord, so that it is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason. They therefore decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn Feast with an octave, in honor of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of Our Lord’s Nativity. In the course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome and of the whole world, which solemnize the 25th of March as the day of Our Lady’s Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the Feast of the 18th of December, that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, to celebrate the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the Holy Mother of God during the days immediately preceding Her giving Him birth. A new Feast was instituted, under the name of “the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin’s Delivery.”
This Feast, which sometimes goes under the name of Our Lady of O, or the Feast of O [Nostra Signora de la O], on account of the great antiphons which are sung during these days, and, in a special manner, of that which begins “O Virgo virginum” (which is still used in the Vespers of the Expectation—see below, together with the O Adonai, the antiphon of the Advent Office), was kept with great devotion in Spain. A High Mass was sung at a very early hour each morning during the octave, at which all who were with child, whether rich or poor, considered it a duty to assist, that they might thus honor Our Lady’s Maternity, and beg Her blessing upon themselves. It is no wonder that the Holy See approved of this pious practice being introduced into almost every other country. We find that the Church of Milan, Whose Advent fast lasted 40 days, long before Rome conceded this Feast to the various dioceses of Christendom, celebrated the Office of Our Lady’s Annunciation on the sixth and last Sunday of Advent, and called the whole week following the Hebdomada de Exceptato (for thus the popular expression had corrupted the word Expectato). But it, too, has given way to the Feast of Our Lady’s Expectation, which the Church has established and sanctioned as a means of exciting the attention of the faithful during these last days of Advent.
Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire Thou hadst to see Him, Who had been concealed for nine months in Thy chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the Heavenly Father, Who is also Thine; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will. Yes, dearest Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy Thy desires and ours. Make us redouble our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by Thy powerful prayers for us, that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.
O Virgin of virgins! How shall this be? For never was there one like Thee, nor will there ever be. Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at Me? What you behold is a divine mystery.
INTROIT Isaias 12. 8
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. — (Ps. 84. 2). Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou hast turned back the captivity of Jacob. V.: Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.
O God, who didst please that Thy Word should take flesh at the message of an Angel in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant to us Thy suppliants, that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with Thee. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
Commemoration of Advent Feria
EPISTLE Isaias 7. 10-15
In those days the Lord spoke to Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And He said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that He may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of glory shall enter in. V.: Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and the clean or heart. Alleluia, alleluia. V.: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Luke 1. 26-28
At that time the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin, espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the Angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying: and thought within herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thous hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the Angel answering said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb.
Strengthen, O Lord, we beseech Thee, in our minds, the Mysteries of the true faith; that we who confess Him that was conceived of the Virgin to be true God and true Man, may by the power of His saving Resurrection, deserve to arrive at eternal gladness. Through the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
Commemoration of Advent Feria
PREFACE of the Blessed Virgin Mary
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: and that we should praise and bless, and proclaim Thee, in the veneration of the Blessed Mary, ever-Virgin: Who also conceived Thine only-begotten Son by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, and the glory of her virginity still abiding, gave forth to the world the everlasting Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, and the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with these we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Isaias 7. 14
Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.
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 the Resurrection. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
Commemoration of Advent Feria