the annunciation and the angelus

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the gospel story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). The encounter between the Angel Gabriel and Mary is one of the most familiar scenes in Christian art. The picture above is a wood-inlaid beauty from India, given to us by a Marianist Brother and friend. It hangs by our front door as a gentle reminder of Mary`s role in salvation, and her presence in our lives.

The Catholic prayer, The Angelus, is grounded in the Annunciation story. Traditionally, it was prayed three times a day; at 6:00 am, noon and 6:00pm. In monasteries and villages, bells would summon all to pause in their work to pray.

"The Angelus," by Jean-Francois Millet, 1857 Louvre, Paris

As a child, I loved the back and forth rhythm of this prayer. The words from the gospel and the Hail Mary were simple, familiar and comforting.  But, I always stumbled on the closing prayer. If the truth be known, I still do to this day. (Mea culpa!) Interestingly, the New Roman Missal is re-introducing this closing prayer into the `Collect` or Opening Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It will be a comforting memory for many who grew up with the Angelus. This simple mind still prefers the simplicity of the gospel words.

Here is the traditional version of  The Angelus…

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 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. 

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . . 

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us. 

Hail Mary . . . 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, 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.

rejoice, it`s gaudate sunday!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5) Entrance Antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent.

Catholics love their liturgical symbols and colors. Green for ordinary time. White for solemnities like Christmas and Easter. Red to signify both the blood of martyrs and the Holy Spirit. Purple for the penitential time of Lent; with a subtle change in tone to violet for Advent. And, tucked in the back of many parish vestment closets is a joy-filled rose number. Okay, it’s pink!

The liturgical pink makes an appearance but twice a year, on Gaudate and Laetare Sundays; the Third Sunday in Advent and the Fourth Sunday in Lent. They both signify a time to focus on joy in the midst of penance and waiting. (Gaudate means rejoice.)

Many parishes no longer have rose-coloured vestments. Liturgical garments aren’t cheap, and you don’t get much mileage out of these. Some priests don’t feel comfortable wearing them, even if they are available. A dear friend of ours loved celebrating mass at our local Benedictine monastery. But, he dreaded being there for Gaudate Sunday, knowing the Sisters would insist he wore the rose! (I’m still not sure if the insistence came from liturgical correctness or from a desire to tease their beloved friend.)

All kidding aside, it is always good to take time to intentionally focus on joy. As we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, we will be reminded that the coming of the Lord is near. We look with joy to celebrating the birth of Jesus, and to his second coming. The readings are filled with calls to rejoice, exult and be glad.

The anticipation of young ones at this time of year fills homes with excitement. Even not so young ones look forward to family and friends gathering during this holy season. Some of our children are in the midst of exams, and are yearning for that precious moment when the pen is put down and the last exam is completed. Celebrating Christmas with the first grand-baby and niece has increased the joy and anticipation for us all this year.

As the shopping days count-down, the burden of preparations rears its ugly head. And with it, the threat of the annual, panic-induced melt-down. (I’ve never been one of those organized souls who has everything bought and wrapped weeks before the holiday. We’re starting our shopping this weekend!)

My mantra this weekend will be joy, joy, joy!!! And not with teeth-clenched, sarcastic over-tones, but hopefully with a heart-filled with gratitude for the message of this season. Our God became one of us, with a promise that peace and justice will eventually reign over all.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.

life`s highways

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4) 

I am a prairie woman. I like my land flat. I like my horizons endless. I like my skies expansive. I grumble mightily when my easy, smooth path hits an incline. I huff and I puff when faced with a hill. I don`t understand why anyone would pay good money for a torture exercise machine that replicates the experience.

I am also a novice runner. I began a running program at the end of this summer; a perfect time of year. The weather was gorgeous. The paths turned from summer splendor to autumn glory. I began to feel fit, and almost reached that stage of getting a mini-high. By October I had reached the goal of running non-stop for 30 minutes. Wahoo!

But now, winter has arrived. Determined not to buy the torture tread-mill machine, I have vowed to continue running outdoors. But, I wasn`t prepared for the physiological changes of cold-weather running. When the temperatures dip, so does your energy level. Your legs feel like lead. The harsh winds bite at your face, and your lungs don`t know what hit them. And then there`s the path.

Gone are the smooth roads of summer; replaced by a sloppy mess of heavy snow and sand. Today, stretches of frozen humps point accusatory fingers at the lack of proper snow removal during last week`s warm spell. I tried on a new pair of ice and snow grips on my runners. They were brilliant; until they fell off during my first circuit around the park. Hmmm…it`s December 6th. How many more sleeps until spring?

Advent is a time of wishful thinking and dreaming with the prophet Isaiah. It is a time of waiting and yearning for a time of overflowing banquets, peace-filled lands, and rough places turning to plains. A lumpy jogging path is merely an annoyance. What about the real barriers and obstacles in my life, and in the lives of those around me? What can I, what can we do to help remove them? What good can we do to fill the valleys of need? What actions can we take to tear down the mountains of hatred, poverty, and injustice?

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.(Isaiah 40:5)