A Season of Lent: THE ANNUNCIATION

Causa Nostrae Laetitiae

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,[a] and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”[b]35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived[c] a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. ( Luke 1: 26-38 )

When he was 16 years old, even before he became Catholic, the young Chesterton wrote a poetic devotion to Mary and her acceptance of God’s will in bearing the Christ child for the world. We celebrate today the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – Jesus Christ!

“Hail Mary, thou blessed among women, generations shall rise up to greet,
After ages of wrangles and dogma, I come with a prayer to thy feet.
Where Gabriel’s red plumes were a wind in the lanes of thy lilies at eve,
We love, who have done with the churches, we worship, who may not believe.
Shall I reck that the chiefs we revolt with, stern elders with scoff and with frown,
Have scourged from thine altar the kneelers, and reft from thy forehead the crown?
For God’s light for the world has burnt through it, the thought whereof thou wert the sign,
As a sign, for all faiths are as symbols, as human, and man is divine.
We know that men prayed to their image and crowned their own passions as powers,
We know that their gods were their shadows, nor are ‘shamed of this queen that was ours:
We know as the people the priest is, as the men are the goddess shall be,
And all harlots were worshipped in Cyprus, all maidens and mothers in thee.
Who shall murmur of dreams or be sour when the tale of thy triumph is told,
When thy star rose a sun and a meteor o’er empires and cities of old?
When against the dim altars of passion, the garlands of queens god-embraced,
Come the peace of a poor Jewish maid in the lily-like pride of the chaste,
Came weak, without swords of the flesh, without splendours of lyres or of pen,
As a naked appeal to things pure in the hearts of the children of men;
And e’en as she walked as one dreaming, sweet, pale as the evening star,
The spell of the wanton was snapped, and the revel of gods rolled afar,
And she brightened the glens that were gloomy, and softened the tribes that were wild,
Till the world grew a worshipping choir round the shapes of a mother and child.

O woman, O maiden and mother, now also we need thee to greet:
Now in ages of change and of question, I come with a prayer to thy feet,
In the earthquake and cleaving of strata, the lives of low passions we see,
And the horrors we bound in dark places rejoice, having hope to be free;
Wild voices from hills half-forgotten laugh scorn at all bonds that restrain:
O queen of all tender and holy, come down and confound them again!
They dream that another shall oust thee, a lower rise strong o’er the higher,
And tread on the stars of thy night and the rose that was born of thy brier;
She is wreathed with red rose that is thornless, with warmth never stinging as fire,
She is pleasure, and this is the end of the world and the world’s desire.

O dead worlds of valour and faith, O brave hearts that strove hard to be pure,
O wonderful longing of man, the old taint of his being to cure,
Old voices in strange exaltation, with lightning and star taking part,
When like song of the wind in his ears were the statutes, rejoicing the heart:
When he yearned with a terrible joy to the laws that avenge and restrain:
Sleep, children of faith, though ye reign not, yet men were more great in thy reign,
More great, yet I wrong thee, O present, the fruit of the things that have been,
Man’s soul that was high shall be higher, man’s heart that God cleansed shall be clean.
And the blazon shall rest on their bosoms, the soul-star upon them that flames,
And the child ten times christened shall lead them, the vision with varying names:
The life that was Mary’s shall guard us, the dreams to high things that belong,

The wonder, the holy, the highest shall stand among men and be strong,
In its wings they shall dwell, like to children, all words that revere and forgive,
Pure secrets and kindlier longings in this shall find shelter and live;
A flower growing high as a star grows, yet fed with the life of man’s roots,
A race of men nearer the spirit, men farther, not nearer to brutes:
Therefore, breathe I a prayer for a moment, at this, the lone shrine of the past,
Whose face was the sun of the ages, whose soul shall be light to the last;
For man’s hope of high things never faileth, though visions and worships may fail,
O Mary, thou blessed among women, great pureness and motherhood hail!” – G. Chesterton, Ave Maria

Read more on Chesterton and Mary from Father Mark Lawler.

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