Does anyone recognize the Collect for today’s Mass? “Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts that we to whom the incarnation of Christ, your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by his passion and cross, be brought the glory of his resurrection?” It is the “Angelus Prayer,” which Catholics for centuries have prayed three times a day. In Europe all the church bells ring at noon, as do our own bells here at Star of the Sea, calling us to this prayer. We would do well to regain this tradition.
The Angelus prayer reflects today’s Gospel, which is the Annunciation, the precise moment in which the eternal Word became incarnate. The mystery of the Incarnation stands at the head of all the Christian mysteries. This first mystery of the rosary contains all the other mysteries within it. God became man, so that man might become God. We ‘become God’ not because we are capable of anything great, but because God shares his divine life with us. It is by his own gracious will that He brings us into himself. “God does not choose the qualified; he qualifies those whom he chooses.” It is only for us to surrender to that perfect will.
No human being had ever, or has ever, or will ever perfectly surrender to God except the Blessed Virgin Mary. Only she who was conceived without original sin could do this, and she did do it. The rest of humanity is trapped in the fears, addictions, and dysfunctions of Original Sin. But the wonder of Christmas is that one person did completely surrender to God’s perfect will in loving trust.
God has always loved us, but we have not always loved God. It was at the precise moment when the young maiden of Nazareth chose to trust him completely that the world changed. The human and divine wills, for the first time in the history of our race, perfectly aligned, and she became the mother of all the living, humanity’s solitary boast, our one great merit to become children of God. That’s why Christmas is not just about Jesus, and the US Post Office doesn’t just have a Christmas stamp with Jesus, but a picture of Jesus and Mary, Mary holding Jesus.
We so want to believe that we can hold God in our arms, as he holds us in his arms, that we can let him love us as he wills. We cannot love him like she did, but we can at least echo her words of loving surrender. That’s why I recommend that we all learn the Angelus Prayer, the prayer of today’s Mass, and we pray it three times a day, morning, noon, and night. We can develop the habit of saying those words, “let it be done to me according to your word,” even if we don’t perfectly understand or mean them. In time, if we persist in saying this prayer of the Virgin Mary, we will learn to trust like her.
At the Hour of our Death
I ask your prayers for my father, who is very weak, and perhaps dying. Like all of us, he has had trouble trusting in God. He has not received communion in forty years, and we children are praying that he receives Christ one last time before he dies. He has led a difficult life, has burned many bridges as all of us have. Everyone lives with many regrets and disappointments. How can a dying man learn to trust again after all these years? At our family reunion last year, dear old Dad simply said, when it was his turn to speak, that it was getting awfully hard to keep denying reality. Reality is God’s love for us, and our necessary surrender to that love. Perhaps the best thing for my father is simply to say the Angelus, echoing Our Lady’s words, to prepare himself to receive the Word Incarnate. Perhaps this is the best I can do for my father, to pray for him and with him the only words that can bring us to heaven: “Be it done unto me according to your will.” Our Lady said them first, and she will help us to say them at the last.