Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and we may not be aware of the fact that when the “Anno Domini” (Year of the Lord) dating of the calendar was first introduced in 525, the 25th of March would become the first day of the year. The first recorded instance of the celebration of the feast was at the Council of Toledo in 656.
The Blessed Virgin Mary plays a most important role in God’s plan. From all eternity, God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to Him in the redemption of the world. Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a crucial role to play in the Incarnation and redemption of the world. Having received into her lowliness the infinite love of God, she became the space where God could act. As the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our link between heaven and earth.
It is nearly impossible to consider our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary without thinking of the Annunciation, as the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women,” became the beginning of the Angelus prayer; this prayer should be recited three times a day, at 6am, at noon, and at 6pm.
The French Cistercian monk Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) wrote:
"You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God, we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."
Homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother by St. Bernard (Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4 , 53-54)
Let us conclude with the Memorare, one of the most popular Marian prayers that has been proven to work miracles over the last 500 years:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
By Fr Tomas