On this day the archangel Gabriel, by God’s command, descended from heaven to the little city of Nazareth, to Mary, in order to announce to her the near coming of the Redeemer of the world. The angel entered her little room, and making a reverential bow, said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” No doubt the humble virgin felt great perturbation at this sudden apparition. She was disturbed at the appearance of the angel, who came under the form of a comely youth, and also at the singular announcement. St. John Chrysostom says that Mary manifested great virtues on this occasion, for she heard the salutation with blushes, and instead of breaking out into unbecoming joy, she appeared, in her humility, much concerned at the speech. In truth, what greater praise could the angel have given her than the words “Thou art full of grace”? That fulness of grace supposed that she was free from all sin; a fulness of grace which presupposed the practice and possession of every virtue, by which Mary had become so acceptable to God. That fulness of grace indicated that she was more privileged than the angels and saints. No wonder that she was so full of grace, because the Lord was with her, and she was the privileged woman of her sex. All generations shall call her blessed.

The angel saw the maiden’s trouble, and to reassure her, he said, “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor 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 forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” What does the Virgin answer to this announcement? “How shall I become the mother of this great man, when I have consecrated my virginity to God?” The angel answered, “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. Nothing is impossible to God; for thy cousin, St. Elizabeth, hath conceived in her old age.” Understand, O Mary, that thou shalt not conceive by the power of a man but by the power of the Holy Ghost. The angel waits for thy answer; we too, poor creatures, await your consent, which will be the beginning of our redemption. On thy word depends the consolation of the miserable, the freedom of slaves, the liberation from the sentence of eternal death; in short, the salvation of all the children of Adam. Then the Virgin answered. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” Then was the word made flesh and dwelt among us. The angel joyfully spread his golden wings and hastened to announce to the inhabitants of paradise the happy news, that this glorious Virgin had consented; that already the incarnation had taken place.

O Mary, I fall down at thy feet, and thank thee from the bottom of my heart for that consent. I salute thee as the Mother of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ; not only do I salute thee as the Mother of Jesus, but as my Mother also. St. Francis de Sales exclaimed: “How happy I am! My Mother, the most holy Virgin, loves me as her child!” Have not we, my dear young friends, great reason to rejoice, because we have so good a mother, one so rich, and so loving, who is all powerful with her divine Son? Mary becomes the dispenser of all graces, and some theologians say that God confers no favors on us except by the hands of the Blessed Virgin. Mary is the vessel of graces, and she gives them out with generosity to all. The benefits we have received, and they are as numerous as the sands on the seashore, all have come to us through Mary. The younger Father Segneri says, “As for me, when I consider the graces which I have received from Mary, let me openly state to the glory of my dear Mother, that I am like one of those churches, where all the walls are covered with votive tablets on which I read, ‘For graces received, for graces received.’ So also, everywhere in my body and soul I find inscribed, ‘by graces received, I am well and strong; by graces received, I have been baptized and preserved in the service of God.'”

You, my dear young friends, have the same story to tell. Health, life, good parents, good education, good companions and teachers–all these blessings come to you from Mary.

Let us then with a loud voice praise the Madonna, honor her as well as we can, think of her often, call her by the endearing name of Mother, love her with a tender affection. St. Stanislaus Kostka was once asked how he loved the Blessed Virgin. “How can I answer this question?” he asked. “She is my Mother, and what more can I say?” If you, too, say with a like affection, she is my Mother and that is why I love her, she on her part will look upon you as her dear child and she will love you with a constant love; she will defend you against the enemies of your salvation, she will cover you with her mantle, she will bestow on you her choicest blessings and will bring you safely to heaven.

Father Alphonsus Salmeron, a devout client of Mary, often repeated on his death-bed, ” To paradise, to paradise! blessed be the hour in which I have served Mary; blessed are the sermons which I have heard in thy honor, O Mary; blessed be the work I have done for thee!” If you have loved Mary, your Mother, with a true heart, you will also confidently repeat the same words, “To paradise, to paradise! blessed be the hour in which I have honored Mary!”

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst 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.

by Rev. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900

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