Mary in advent
In this section you can find prayers and reflections on Our Lady including last year’s Angelus Message and Prayer to the Immaculate by Pope Francis.
There can be no doubt about it, Mary experienced a unique advent. It is nigh on impossible for any of us to imagine what went through her mind as she waited to give birth to her child. We can only catch glimpses of what it meant for her to carry the Son of God in her womb. She knew that the chid she was carrying was special – not just in the way all new borns are special, but that her child was destined to be and do something different. During her pregnancy, Mary pondered on the message given to her by the Angel Gabriel. She shared the news with her cousin Elizabeth and gave us the wonderful words of The Magnificat. Mary knew nothing of what the future would bring. She left everything in God’s hands – such was her immense trust in Him.
We share Mary’s joy at the coming of the Saviour of the world. We share in the excitement and awe that Advent instils in us as we await the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of Advent
Our Lady of Advent,
Mother of all our longings,
you who felt the child take form
in your womb, the Hope of your people,
the salvation of God,
Uphold our corporal and spiritual
maternity and paternity.
Mother of all our hopes,
you who welcomed the Spirit’s strength,
giving flesh to God’s promises,
grant us to incarnate Love,
a sign of God’s kingdom,
through every action in our lives.
Our Lady of Advent,
Mother of all our watches,
you who gave a face to our future,
strengthen those who labour in pain
a new world of justice and peace.
You who contemplated the Child of Bethlehem,
make us aware of the unexpected signs
of God’s gentleness.
Our Lady of Advent,
Mother of the Crucified,
reach out to all those who are dying
and walk with them in their new life
in the Father’s arms.
Our Lady of Advent, Paschal icon,
grant us to joyfully keep a discerning watch
throughout our daily moments and so
to catch the comings and goings
of Christ our Lord.
(Michel Hubaut OFM)
O purest of creatures!
O purest of creatures! sweet Mother, sweet Maid;
The one spotless womb wherein Jesus was laid.
Dark night hath come down on us, Mother, and we
Look out for thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Deep night hath come down on this rough-spoken world.
And the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled;
And the tempest-tossed Church – all her eyes are on thee.
They look to thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
He gazed on thy soul, it was spotless and fair;
For the empire of sin, it had never been there;
None had e’er owned thee, dear Mother, but He,
And He blessed thy clear shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Earth gave Him one lodging; `twas deep in thy breast,
And God found a home where the sinner finds rest;
His home and His hiding-place, both were in thee;
He was won by thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Oh, blissful and calm was the wonderful rest
That thou gavest thy God in thy virginal breast;
For the heaven He left He found heaven in thee,
And He shone in thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Advent and the Words of Our Lady
The following talk was given by Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director to the Legion of Mary given in December 2010.
It has been sometimes said that the words of Our Lady that are recorded in Sacred Scripture are relatively few. That may be true. But they are sublimely precious, grace filled and full of profound insight and of limitless value to every true disciple of Jesus. Her words also give us the most authentic portrait of the inner life and essential character of Mary. There is no better way of coming to know and love Mary than through her own words especially when she is praying to God. And as you might expect every recorded word that Mary speaks in Scripture is found in the Legion Handbook and the Legion Prayers.
Today, because our meeting is taking place on Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Gaudete is simply the Latin for rejoice I want to reflect on a few words of Our Lady that reveal to us a fundamental characteristic of her very identity. Mary sings aloud: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ She is essentially a person of deep and habitual joy. We all know the place of joy in our Christian life. Blessed Columba Marmion said that ‘joy is the only infallible sign of the presence of God in our lives’ and again: ‘Joy is the echo of the presence of God in our lives.’ And many saints and spiritual writers say the same thing in similar words. So because the presence of God was so intimate to Mary the spirit of joy was measureless in her. I stress this truth for us legionaries because the spirit of the Legion must be unmistakeably the spirit of Mary. So if there is only a meagre spirit of joy in our individual lives and in our meetings then we have not yet got the authentic spirit of the Legion.
Let us explore a little bit the joy of Mary. She tells us that she rejoices because of God her Saviour. So nothing was more precious to her than the gift of her redemption. And it was a very special way of redemption, utterly unique. From the first moment of her existence she was totally graced, freed from original sin and all personal sin. Never even for a split second was she under the influence of Satan, for God made a pre-emptive strike that flooded every aspect of her very existence with his grace and presence. No wonder when she appeared to Saint Catherine Laboure she asked that a medal be struck of her as the Immaculate Conception and it was only much later as the result of so many healings and miracles attributed to the wearing of the medal that it became known as the Miraculous Medal. Then after the definition by Pope Pius IX of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette and revealed her identity as the Immaculate Conception. This Marian title was the striking proclamation and sign of the gift of her redemption and ours. It is a two word statement of the whole Gospel. It is the great sign of the primacy of grace over sin. It speaks of God’s infinite love for Mary and through her for us. It is the unforgettable sign of the absolute certainty of Christian hope. The Immaculate Conception was God’s preparation of Mary to be the Mother of His Son and to be the hallowed place of his welcome here on earth. She becomes the Woman of Advent, the one who more than anyone else knows how to look forward to the coming of the Saviour and the great expert in giving hospitality to God in her heart. I don’t have to tell you about the radical role the Immaculate Conception plays in the Legion from the symbolic language of the Legion Altar and the miraculous medal to the solid doctrinal foundations of the Legion.
What about the sorrows in the life of Mary? Is she not the Woman and Mother of Sorrows? Yes, indeed a sword pierced her very heart and not just one but several. No one can bypass the cross in their life. But Mary sees all suffering in the context of the providence of God’s love for her. The saints see suffering as a gift of God, an invitation to share in the redemptive mission of Christ on the Cross and the salvation of souls. By God’s grace Mary shares in a unique way the redemption of the world so that she is called a Co-Redemptrix and indeed the mediatrix of all graces. So although the suffering of Mary is all too real and deep, it cannot remove the joy of the most intimate communion with the Trinity in her heart. The portrait of Mary that emerges from her own words is that of a strong woman indeed the victorious Mother at the side of her Son, the Woman of Genesis.
Let me make at least one practical application concerning the joy of Mary to us legionaries. What we say of Mary is the paradigm of what her legionaries work towards. Joy must be a major characteristic of the legionary. Sometimes, in certain parts of the Legion world we can become discouraged by our apparent lack of success in recruiting new members. Maybe the cause of this could be that there is not sufficient joy in us and our meetings. It is certain that joy in the spirit of Mary would act like a magnet. May the season of Advent, Christmas and the New Year be a time when we reflect on Mary the cause of our joy and the most attractive dimension of her Legion. A happy and Marian Christmas and New Year to you all.
Alma Redemptoris Mater
Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris, succurre cadenti, surgere qui curat, populo:
tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore,
sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.
Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.
During Advent we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Every year on this day, the Holy Father goes to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Here are a two of the prayers Pope Francis has prayed in 2013 and 2016. His Angelus address of 2016 follows the two prayers.
Prayer to the Immaculate (2013)
Virgin most holy and immaculate,
to you, the honour of our people,
and the loving protector of our city,
do we turn with loving trust.
You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you there is no sin.
Awaken in all of us a renewed desire for holiness:
May the splendour of truth shine forth in our words,
the song of charity resound in our works,
purity and chastity abide in our hearts and bodies,
and the full beauty of the Gospel be evident in our lives.
You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you the Word of God became flesh.
Help us always to heed the Lord’s voice:
May we never be indifferent to the cry of the poor,
or untouched by the sufferings of the sick and those in need;
may we be sensitive to the loneliness of the elderly and the vulnerability of children,
and always love and cherish the life of every human being.
You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you is the fullness of joy born of life with God.
Help us never to forget the meaning of our earthly journey:
May the kindly light of faith illumine our days,
the comforting power of hope direct our steps,
the contagious warmth of love stir our hearts;
and may our gaze be fixed on God, in whom true joy is found.
You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
Hear our prayer, graciously hear our plea:
May the beauty of God’s merciful love in Jesus abide in our hearts,
and may this divine beauty save us, our city and the entire world.
Prayer to the Immaculate (2016)
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to you,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted to me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That you may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring to you, Mother, all workers, both men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We are in need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We are in need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We are in need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We are in need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin;
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But, trusting in your constant help,
Let us engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
The Angelus Message of Pope Francis given on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2016.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy feast day!
The readings for today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary present two crucial passages in the history of the relationship between man and God: we could say that they lead us towards the origin of good and evil. These two passages lead us to the origin of good and evil.
The Book of Genesis shows us the first no, the original ‘no’, the human ‘no’, when man preferred to gaze upon himself rather than on his Creator; he wanted to go his own way, and chose to be self-sufficient. However, in so doing, forsaking communion with God, he lost his own self and began to fear, to hide himself and to accuse those who were close by (cf. Gen 3:10, 12). These are symptoms: fear is always a symptom of a ‘no’ to God, and indicates that I am saying ‘no’ to God; accusing others and not looking at ourselves indicates that I am distancing myself from God. This is the sin. Yet, the Lord does not leave man at the mercy of his sin; immediately He looks for him, and asks a question that is full of apprehension: “Where are you?” (v. 9). It is as if He is saying: “Stop, think: where are you?”. It is the question of a father or a mother looking for a lost child: “Where are you? What situation have you gotten yourself into?”. And God does this with great patience, to the point of bridging the gap which arose from the origin. This is one of the passages.
The second crucial passage, recounted today in the Gospel, is when God comes to live among us, becomes man like us. And this was made possible through a great ‘yes’ – that of the sin was the ‘no’; this is the ‘yes’, it is a great ‘yes’ — that of Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Because of this ‘yes’ Jesus began his journey along the path of humanity; he began it in Mary, spending the first months of life in his mother’s womb: he did not appear as a man, grown and strong, but he followed the journey of a human being. He was made equal to us in every way, except one thing, that ‘no’. Except sin. For this reason, he chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate. In the Gospel, with one word only, she is called “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), that is, filled with grace. It means that, in her, full of grace from the start, there is no space for sin. And when we turn to her, we too recognize this beauty: we invoke her, “full of grace”, without a shadow of evil.
Mary responds to God’s proposal by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (v. 38). She does not say: “Well, this time I will do God’s will; I will make myself available, then I will see…”. No. Hers is a full, total ‘yes’, for her entire life, without conditions. And just as the original ‘no’ closed the passage between man and God, so Mary’s ‘yes’ opened the path to God among us. It is the most important ‘yes’ in history, the humble ‘yes’ which reverses the prideful original ‘no’, the faithful ‘yes’ that heals disobedience, the willing ‘yes’ that overturns the vanity of sin.
For each of us too, there is a history of salvation made up of ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’. Sometimes, though, we are experts in the half-hearted ‘yes’: we are good at pretending not to understand what God wants and what our conscience suggests. We are also crafty and so as not to say a true ‘no’ to God, we say: “Sorry, I can’t”; “not today, I think tomorrow”. “Tomorrow I’ll be better; tomorrow I will pray, I will do good tomorrow”. And this cunning leads us away from the ‘yes’. It distances us from God and leads us to ‘no’, to the sinful ‘no’, to the ‘no’ of mediocrity. The famous “yes, but …”; “yes, Lord, but …”. In this way we close the door to goodness, and evil takes advantage of these omitted ‘yeses’. Each of us has a collection of them within. Think about it: we will find many omitted ‘yeses’. Instead, every complete ‘yes’ to God gives rise to a new story: to say ‘yes’ to God is truly “original”. It is the origin, not the sin, that makes us old on the inside. Have you thought about this, that sin makes us old on the inside? It makes us grow old quickly”! Every ‘yes’ to God gives rise to stories of salvation for us and for others. Like Mary with her own ‘yes’. In this Advent journey, God wishes to visit us and awaits our ‘yes’. Let’s think: I, today, what ‘yes’ must I say to God? Let’s think about it; it will do us good. And we will find the Lord’s voice in God, who asks something of us: a step forward. “I believe in you; I hope in you. I love you; be it done to me according to your good will”. This is the ‘yes’. With generosity and trust, like Mary, let us say today, each of us, this personal ‘yes’ to God.