Suddenly the room was filled with a wondrous light, and looking up, she beheld the angel Gabriel bowing in reverence before her. He greeted her, saying:
''Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women" (Luke, i, 28.) Mary wondered at his words and Gabriel told her that God had sent him to say that He had chosen her to be the mother of the Messias. Was she willing? But Mary was afraid and asked how this could be. Gabriel told her that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and that her son, the Messias, would be none other than God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who would come down from Heaven, take her for His Mother, and be born a little baby. "And thou shalt call His name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt, i, 21.) And Mary said:
"Behold the hand-maid [the little servant] of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word" (Luke, i, 38). And Gabriel, telling her that her cousin Elizabeth would also have a son, sped with his answer to the throne of God. The Blessed Virgin Mary well understood the tremendous honor God was giving her, and she loved Him all the more and thought all the less of herself.
Then rising up, she went in haste over the hill-country to visit and congratulate her cousin Elizabeth. As she drew near to the house, Elizabeth saw her coming and knew from God that she had been chosen to be the Mother of the Messias. So she hurried to meet her and falling on her knees before her, cried:
"Blessed art thou among women: And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke i, 42, 43.)
"And Mary said : My soul doth magnify the Lord. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid [the littleness of His servant] for behold from henceforth all generations [the whole world], shall call me blessed." (Luke i, 46, 48.) They went Into the house together and Mary stayed until Elizabeth's son was born. And when he was eight days old their friends came to see him. Elizabeth said that the boy should be called John, but the relatives said : "No, for no one in your family has that name." But Zachary made signs for a tablet and wrote: "John is his name." (Luke i, 63). Then his tongue was loosed and he spoke for the first time and taking the child in his arms, cried out: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest" (Luke i, 68, 76). And the baby grew and became a strong, wonderful boy, and the Holy Ghost bade him leave his home, and live in the desert, and fit himself by fasting and prayer for the work that he must do, which was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of Christ.
"To announce" means "to tell a piece of news," and so "annunciation" means "the telling of a piece of news." Now the greatest piece of news this world has ever heard was the news that the Son of God would become man and that He had chosen the Blessed Virgin for His Mother. Therefore by the Annunciation we mean the angel Gabriel's telling the Blessed Virgin that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God. We keep the feast of the Annunciation on the 25th of March.
This feast is also known as the feast of the Incarnation because ''incarnation" means ''taking flesh" or "taking a body." Therefore by the Incarnation we mean that the Son of God was conceived and was made man with a body and soul like ours.
The prayer we call the "Hail Mary," from its opening words, was partly composed by the angel Gabriel. Can you tell which words are his ? The rest was added by the Church. A very beautiful prayer in honor of the Annunciation and of the Incarnation, is called the Angelus. It is so called because it starts in Latin with the word angelus which means "angel." Morning, noon, and night the angelus-bell rings from the church-tower to bid us pause and think of the Incarnation. Good Catholics then kneel down, if in church or at home, and say the Angelus. Otherwise they say it while walking, standing or sitting. On Sunday it is said standing. Let us say it together now and, at each lesson, add it to our prayers. Thus, in a short time, we shall learn it.
The Blessed Virgin's visiting Saint Elizabeth is called the Visitation. This feast is kept on the 2d of July.
(1) What do you mean by the Annunciation?
(2) What do you mean by the Incarnation?
(3) What is the Angelus?
(4) What do you mean by the Visitation?
(5) Who composed the Hail Mary?
Source: To the Heart of a Child, Imprimatur 1918
A coloring picture of the Annunciation can be found below.
Is it not sad that though millions of Catholics are daily saying the Hail Mary, many of them say it so badly. They repeat it hastily not even thinking on the words they are saying. They thus deprive God's Mother of the great joy they could so easily give Her and deprive themselves of the wondrous graces that She wishes to give them.
One Hail Mary well said fills the heart of Our Lady with delight and obtains for us indescribably great graces. One Hail Mary well said gives us more graces than a thousand badly said. Is it hard to say the Hail Mary well? Nothing is easier. All we have to do is to know its value and understand its beauties.
ST. JEROME tells us that the beauties contained in the Hail Mary are so sublime, so wonderful that no man or angel could fully understand them*. The Hail Mary is like a mine of gold that we can always take from but never exhaust.
ST. THOMAS OF AQUINAS, the Prince of Theologians, the wisest of saints and the holiest of wise men, as Leo XIII called him, preached for 40 days in Rome on the Hail Mary, filling his hearers with rapture.
FATHER SUAREZ, the holy and learned Jesuit, declared when dying that he would willingly give all the many learned books he wrote, all his life's labours, for the merit of one Hail Mary.
ST MECHTILDE, was one day striving to compose a beautiful prayer in honour of God's Mother. Our Lady appeared to her, saying to the saint: Desist, dear Child, from your labour for no prayer, you could possibly make, would give Me the joy and delight of the Hail Mary.
A PIOUS CATHOLIC was wont to find joy in saying slowly the Hail Mary. The Blessed Virgin in return appeared to him smiling and announced to him the day and hour that he should die, granting him a most holy and happy death. After death a beautiful white lily grew from his mouth having written on its petals: Hail Mary.
CESARIUS recounts a similar incident. A humble but holy lay-brother lived in the monastery. His poor mind and memory were so weak that he could only repeat one prayer which was the "Hail Mary". After death a tree grew over his grave and on all its leaves was written: "Hail Mary".
These facts and many others, like them, show us clearly how much Our Lady is pleased when we say the Hail Mary well.
Why has the Hail Mary such value?
EACH TIME that we say the Hail Mary we are repeating the very same words with which ST. Gabriel the Archangel saluted Mary on the day of the Annunciation, when She was made Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. Oceans of graces and joys filled the soul of Mary at that moment. Now when we say the Hail Mary we offer anew all these graces and joys to Our Lady and She accepts them with immense delight. In return She gives us a share, but a great share in these joys.
Once Our Lord asked St. Francis to give Him something. The Saint replied: "Dear Lord I can give You nothing for I have already given you all, all my love". Jesus smiled and said: "Francis give me it all again and again it will give me the same pleasure".
So with our dearest Mother. She accepts from us each time we say the Hail Mary the joys and delight She received from the words of St. Gabriel. Let us remember. That Almighty God gave His Blessed Mother all the dignity, greatness and holiness necessary to make Her His own most perfect Mother. But He also gave Her all the sweetness, love, tenderness and affection necessary to make Her Our most loving Mother. All the love of the Mothers of this Earth is nothing in comparison to the love, tenderness and affection of Mary for EACH ONE OF US!
MARY IS TRULY AND REALLY OUR MOTHER.
St. Bernard and all the saints say that it was never, never heard at any time or in any place that Mary refused to hear the prayers of Her children on Earth. Oh! why do not we Catholics realize this most consoling truth? Why refuse the love and consolation that God's Sweet Mother is offering us? Lamentable ignorance which deprives us of such help and consolation. To love and trust Mary is to be happy on Earth and to be happy in Heaven.
How best to honour Mary.
We can show our love for Mary and win Her love and protection by simply saying the Hail Mary well.
The Power of the Hail Mary.
Dr. Hugh Lammer was a staunch Protestant, with strong Protestant feelings and instincts. One day he found an explanation of the Hail Mary and read it. He was so charmed with it that he began to say it daily. Insensibly all his anti-Catholic animosity began to disappear. He became a Catholic, a holy priest and a professor of Catholic Theology in Breslau.
A PRIEST was called to the bedside of a wretched sinner, who was dying in black despair. He refused obstinately to go to confession. As a last recourse the priest asked him to say at least the Hail Mary after which the poor man made a sincere confession and died a holy death.
IN ENGLAND a protestant lady was gravely ill. She wished to become a Catholic because when a child she had learned from a Catholic girl the Hail Mary, which she said every night. She was baptized and before dying she converted her husband and children.
ST. GERTRUDE tells us that when we thank God for the graces He has given to any Saint we get a great share of these graces. What graces then do we not receive when we say the Hail Mary thanking God for all the unspeakable graces He has given His Blessed Mother?
These explanations are taken with due permission from the beautiful book: "HOW TO BE HAPPY. HOW TO BE HOLY" which every Catholic ought to read.
20 Decembris 1953