V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among 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
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
31st March - the Angelus - God's Will in difficult times Pt 1
No-one better than Jesus shows us how to face difficult times.
He had said during his life that his food was to 'Do the will of the One who sent me'. Jn 4:34
In the agony in the garden both Jesus' reaction and response is an encouragement to us.
His reaction when foreseeing his arrest and suffering was, 'I don't want it - take it away'.
His response (namely a conscious choice and decision on reflection with prayer) though was 'What you want Father, I want'.
It's the only way to go - and Jesus shows us how to do it. It is by embracing difficulties, suffering and the cross with love as he did, that we can get the help we need from God to bear it and to cope.
When all this is embraced with love, God will bring much good from it - as he did from Jesus' life and Passion and as he did from Mary's life and suffering.
24th March - The Angelus - Did mary know what her 'yes' would mean?
Even though Mary generously said 'yes' to God, there was no road map with all the details of what her life was going to look like.
She did not know the future:-
- The trip to Bethlehem and no room at the inn.
- Simeon's prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart.
- The confusion of losing Jesus for three days when he was 12.
- Joseph's death and her own difficult widowhood.
- The struggles Jesus would face in his public ministry.
- The nightmare of his arrest and execution.
What Mary did know was that God was in charge of her journey. She also knew the truth of the Angels words 'Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with you'.
My life may seem chaotic at times. But whatever my circumstances, like Mary, I need to remember: 'Lord, you are with me'.
17th March - The Angelus - Be it done unto me according to thy Word
This openness of Mary to the word of the Angel, is really her openness to the Word of God - to God's Will. This is all summed up in one Latin word - 'fiat' - let it be. We say that Mary gave her fiat to God through the Angel.
In other words Mary was saying to God 'What you want, I want'. What a wonderful attitude and what a wonderful woman.
This is so simple and yet it means so much. Others have teased out in various ways what 'doing what God wants' means. I would like to quote a few words from St Mary of the Cross MacKillop for whom the Will of God meant so much.
'Oh, Father, I cannot tell you what a beautiful thing the will of God seems to me. For some years past, my Communions, my prayers, my intentions have all been for God's will to be done. I can never pray for a particular intention, a particular person, or anything particular about our own Institute, but in God's loved will, that is - whilst I desire with all my heart to pray for these, I cannot help at the same time desiring that He only use my prayers for the intention that His own will most desires at this time. Thus I feel a joy when things go well, for I see His will in this, and an equal joy when they seem to go wrong or against our natural desire, for there again I see His will, and am satisfied that He has accepted my prayers and those of many more for some other object at the time nearer to His adorable will.' [Letter, Ascension 1874, Resource Book 2, pp 49-51]
These words give us not only a glimpse into Mary MacKillop' soul and spirit but also a glimpse into the heart and soul of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
10th March - the Angelus - Behold the Handmaid of the Lord Pt2
Mary declares that she is a servant. She is not anyone's servant though, but Gods.
Mary encourages us also to be servants - servants of the Lord.
Before we think about what our role, our duty, or what our responsibilities could be, let us first think of who this Lord is who we are called to serve.
This Lord is our God. It was this God who took flesh in Mary who calls us to serve. Of himself he said 'The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many'.
What a God - what humble generosity!
The more we reflect on that, the more we understand what a privilege he gives us as he calls us.
Looking to Jesus also as our 'Suffering Servant' we will be able to see more clearly who are the ones he calls us to serve and how we are to serve them. We have many examples in the Gospel of Jesus serving people that fit any of the many situations and circumstances of our lives.
3rd March The Angelus - And she concieved by the Holy Spirit Pt 1
Last week we reflected briefly on the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation, Creation and the Eucharist.
Because this powerful Spirit it always with us it would seem that there is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do.
One of the gifts of being a Bishop is that in various ways, and especially in administering the Sacrament of Confirmation, I am regularly brought 'face to face' with the Holy Spirit.
As I share the Holy Spirit with so many, I too am Graced to come closer to the Holy Spirit - to ponder and think more about the Holy Spirit - to value the Holy Spirit more - to call upon the Power and Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
This I have been doing for a little over twenty years now. For some years now at the end of the day I have the practice also of turning to the Holy Spirit.
I think over the day, where God has been, what good I may have done, and where I have failed. As the Holy Spirit hovered over creation and brought forth life, I ask the Holy Spirit to hover over my day to bring forth the life that God wants from it. I also ask the Holy Spirit to continue hovering over the whole world, and all that people that have done, in order to bring forth greater life.
I also have the image of Jesus blessing the few loaves and fish and multiplying them. So too I pray by the Power of the Spirit that he will bless and increase any good I and others have done that day.
Not only in this way am I connected once more to the Holy Spirit, but I go off to sleep, knowing I have done the little I can, and leaving the rest to God, whose Spirit can bring so much more from it. Apart from other things it helps end the day on a very hopeful note.
24th February The Angelus - And she conceived by the Holy Spirit Pt1
Here we have another person involved in the Incarnation - the Holy Spirit. Again the Holy Spirit is much more than a medium. This person is critical in order for the Incarnation to take place.
The Holy Spirit is God's own self. The Father's plan of salvation - to send his Son into our world - was brought about by another person in the Trinity.
We say that it was by the cooperation of Mary that the Son of God took flesh, however it was by the Power of the Holy Spirit that it could and did happen.
Yes the Holy Spirit is powerful beyond words and imagination.
It was the same Holy Spirit that was there at creation, hovering over the chaos of matter to bring forth life.
The more the knowledge and discoveries of science and the universe progresses, the more we can only wonder at the power and the beauty of the Holy Spirit.
That Power continues to work and, as it were, to create in the Eucharist, since it is by the Power of the Holy Spirit, through the medium of the Priest, that the Son of God comes among us in a much humbler form - in the form of bread and wine.
Regularly we celebrate the Eucharist - daily we experience creation - moment by moment Jesus lives within us - how close is the Holy Spirit and the Power of that Spirit for us!
17th February - Mary 'Mother of God'
A few more thoughts on the specialness on Mary and her role, adding to what I said last week.
The dignity of Mary given to her by God is beyond comprehension. The Council of Ephesus referred to Mary as 'Theotokos'. This literally means 'The God bearer'. She was this in a truer sense of being as we rightly say 'Mother of God'.
When we say 'Mother of God' we mean what we say. A mother does not just give birth to human nature but to a complete person. Mary bore the complete person of Jesus Christ - who happened to be the Word of God who took flesh. His flesh (from her) united totally with His Nature (from God the Holy Spirit). So Mary is truly the Mother of God.
We can turn to the poets. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) called Mary 'Our tainted nature's solitary boast'. That bears a lot of reflection.
We can turn to the saints as well. St Bernard (1091-1153) said of Mary 'He whom the whole world cannot contain, enclosed himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary'.
This leads one to think - which is the greatest - God becoming a human being or a human being becoming the Mother of God her maker (the Word in whom all things were made Jn 1:3)?
Whatever about that, the words call us to stop and ponder and wonder about all this and about Mary and her special role in God's plan of salvation.
10th February - Hail Mary
It was Mary who received this momentous declaration from the Angel so let us focus now on Mary herself.
Was she like the Angel - a messenger, a medium? No, her role was much, much more. In fact her role is indescribable.
In the Litany of Our Lady, Mary has many titles and is described in many ways. I love the title 'Ark of the Covenant'. There is so much richness in this title. The Jewish people could write books on it.
God loved his people and wanted to be close to them and so chose to do so in a very special way. God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex 25-27). Within the tabernacle he was to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (cf. Heb 9:4). When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35; Nm 9:18, 22).
The Ark was reverenced and it was (moved from the tent of meeting and) kept in the Holy Holies in the Temple (when it was built). The People believed that God's presence was there so that in the Ark God dwelt with His People.
What a beautiful title for Mary. If anyone was the Ark of the Covenant it was Mary. She carried for nine months our God Incarnate within her womb. It was Jesus who was to bring about a new and everlasting Covenant with all mankind.
What a special woman - what a special person God made and chose Mary to be!
"The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary" Pt3
I have just returned from holidays so it is time again to take up my pen - and my Secretary, Helen, the computer keyboard.
I trust each of you had some special time to be with family and friends around Christmas and the ensuing holidays over New Year and the Australia Day long weekend.
As 2014 begins and ticks away I offer you my very good wishes for you and a very fruitful year.
3rd Feb The Angelus continued - The Angel of the Lord Pt 3
We continue our reflection on the Angelus. How appropriate it was in Advent and at Christmas - and yet it is, I believe, appropriate everyday - especially at the beginning of each day, to help us remember to start afresh with Christ, our Incarnate God who walks with us throughout the day.
We are still on the first line of the Angelus having had a few thoughts on the Angel.
We note that the Angel just didn't deliver a message to Mary. In fact the Angel DECLARED it to Mary.
Declarations are also important things. For example the Declaration of Independence is a critical document in the United States of America. A couple who are about to marry, and who stand before God and the Community on their wedding day, declare their consent and their vows to one another. War just doesn't happen. It is declared.
Well in the Annunciation the Angel made a declaration - in fact the most momentous declaration and world changing one - that God himself would come and save us.
29th December - "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary"
Today I just want to keep asking the question 'Why the Angel?'
Overall it is God's way. God did it at various times in the Old Testament and would do it again after the event of the Annunciation. It is a wonderful way that God has in working through his creatures.
God is a great delegator. He not only creates beings of various natures but gives them the ability to do things themselves. It takes someone special to empower other beings to act rather than doing it directly oneself.
At the same time God honours his creatures. As God works through them they see that they are special instruments or conveyors of God's important messages and gifts.
There is a good lesson here. How can I delegate? How can I engage people in the good things I am doing? How can I get others, as it were, to come with me? How can I empower them to be in their own right, agents for good?
When this is done with respect (not just using people) a lot more good can be achieved - and people will become more united, more one family as God wants us to be.
23rd December - "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary"
God used an angel for this momentous of all announcements or 'declarations ' as the prayer says.
Have you wondered why?
Well for one, a direct experience of God could not only be awesome but also very frightening. God does not want to blind people with his glory. He wants his message to be able to get through in a way that people feel comfortable with. The birth of his Son as a humble infant in a poor stable is a supreme example of this. Anyone, rich or poor, is attracted to such an infant.
As we ponder this let us also look to the ordinary things and events of each day. What is God doing there and saying to us? We wouldn't want to miss it.
One way to do this is to stop and ponder - especially at the end of the day. As we look back over the day surely we will be able, at least in one or two things, to see God at work, touching us, getting a message through. As we pause we will notice God is much more at work than we realise. This will lead us in turn day by day to say a big thank you to our ever present God.
16th December - The Anguls - a source of strength
It is good to look back over one's life to see the hand of God at work in many ways.
One thing that God has done for many of us and I trust for all of us, is to lead us more deeply into our life of Faith.
This is true for me in regard to the Angelus. At school and at the Seminary we prayed it daily - in fact three times a day. Then left to myself it was spasmodic and really lapsed.
In 2009 I had the privilege of making a week's Retreat in Assisi. I joined the Friars in the Monastery for prayer and Mass each morning. Before they began any prayer they recited the Angelus.
This was a Grace for me. In the very place that Francis of Assisi began the beautiful custom of the Christmas crib I returned to the daily praying of the Angelus.
I am also mindful of a man I used to bring Communion to in a nursing home some thirty years ago. He was bedridden with some type of muscular paralysis. He loved reading but was not able to even hold a book. Friends used to come and read to him.
One day he said 'When I was young I learnt the Angelus by heart. It didn't mean much to me. Now I have time on my hands I can pray it quietly and reflectively. It is a great strength to me now.'
While my circumstances are different I have received the same Grace. Like the Friars at Assisi my day's prayer begins with the Angelus. It means so much to me now.
9th December - The Incarnation
Why I love the Angelus and why it is such a special prayer is because it is about the Incarnation - God's Son taking flesh and living among us. The special name given to Jesus of Emmanuel says it all - simply and profoundly - 'God is With Us'.
As Christians the Incarnation is central to the whole of our lives. Pondering the words of St John (3:16) 'Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life'.
If ever we are aware of this great Truth it is now in the season of Advent leading up to Christmas.
While it is a special time, it is also a busy one - end of school year, Christmas shopping and cards, end of year social functions etc. - on top of our normal lives and work.
When we stop and pray reflectively the Angelus each day (even taking two to three minutes) we will not only be reminded of this great Truth that God is with us. Our Faith in the fact that God is with us in all that we do, and that happens to us that day, will grow and deepen.
2nd December - How are you doing?
How are you doing with the Angelus? Have you found a time each day to pray it?
If you are reading my reflection for the first time, I am giving a thought each week on the Angelus. In the first reflection a couple of weeks ago I actually printed a copy of it.
Last week I submitted an image of Mary and the Angel by Fra Angelico. Today I want to submit another image which I love and may be helpful to us as we pray the Angelus.
The image is by Jean-Francois Millet - a nineteenth century French painter and is now housed in the Louvre, in Paris.
Millet was the son of a peasant farmer. His outlook was coloured by incidents of peasant life, which find such eloquent expression in his pictures.
From his background we can understand the scene he painted called 'The Angelus'. This painting completes a series of three pictures which are considered his masterpieces. The other two are 'The Sowers' and 'The Gleaners'.
The scene of peasant farmers, husband and wife, pausing during their work would be foreign to most people these days. It is not foreign to me as I have witnessed this with some of my relatives while cutting hay in the mountains of Italy. At midday as the sound of the village church bell pealed to them across the valley, they paused to recite the Angelus.
I produce this image today to remind us that we can pray the Angelus anywhere - in the middle of the day, in the middle of our work.
Particularly with the Angelus, as we stop what we are doing, it helps us realise more deeply that our God is close - our God Emmanuel is with us in all that we do.
25th November - The Angelus - The gift of art and imagination
When praying a Gospel scene it is good to have an image before us. If the physical scene is not available then we can have a mental picture. Perhaps the mental picture is even more important, because it helps us focus on the event - on what we are praying about at the time.
St Ignatius of Loyola strongly recommended that we use our imagination. Apart from our mind and heart and speech we have this other special faculty of the imagination. This has the power to draw us even more into the faith event and therefore most especially to our God -just as the people (like Mary in this case) were drawn into a deeper union with Him in the event itself.
There are many beautiful paintings of the Incarnation - the taking of flesh by our God, or of the Annunciation (announced by the Angel Gabriel) as we call it. I would like to submit the well-known and beautiful painting by Fra Angelico.
As we admire and reflect on this painting it will become more imprinted in our imagination.
As we use our powerful gift of imagination for this prayer we can do much more. We can put ourselves into the scene - get close as it were. In so doing Mary, the Angel and above all, Jesus, will become closer to us. In this way Jesus, our giving and lavish God, becomes more real for us each day.
18th November - The Angelus
Christmas is fast approaching. We don't need the shops to remind us of that. It is an opportune time for me to begin some reflections on the Angelus.
This is a beautiful traditional and scripture based prayer, that has been prayed by people down through the centuries. Many still do so.
It is a practice for you? If not, could I suggest you pray it daily? Traditionally where there are Church bells, they were rang morning (6am), noon and evening (6pm).
It doesn't matter when we pray the Angelus, but I believe it is important that we pray it.
I like to begin my prayer time in the morning with the Angelus. It helps me focus on God and particularly on Emmanuel, meaning 'God is with us'.
As an action of today's reflection, could I ask for you to choose a time each day to pray the Angelus reflectively. For those who do not have it on hand I print a copy.