“Hail full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.” The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the most important event in human history, the Incarnation of Our Lord (Gospel) in the womb of a Virgin (Epistle). Today is the day on which the Archangel Gabriel came from Heaven with the Gospel, the good news from Heaven, that God would become man to save the world from sin and death and an eternity separated from the love of God.
On this day the Word was made flesh, and united to itself forever the humanity of Jesus. March 25 is indeed the anniversary of the ordination of Christ as priest, for it is by the anointing of the divinity that He has become the Supreme Pontiff, Mediator between God and man. The mystery of the incarnation has earned for Mary her most glorious title, that of “Mother of God” (Collect). “Standing on the threshold of divinity” since she gave to the Word of God the flesh to which he was hypostatically united, the Virgin has always been honored by a supereminent worship, that of hyperdulia.
To March 25 will correspond, nine months later, December 25, the day on which will be manifested to the world the miracle as yet only known to heaven and to the humble Virgin.
The reversal of the punishments leveled against Adam and Eve and the entire human race after the fall was initiated today with those most famous words from St. Luke’s Gospel—”Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.”
Due to Laetare Sunday, this year’s feast is transferred from March 19 to March 20.
The Church always honors St. Joseph with Mary and Jesus, especially during the Christmas solemnities. This day’s Gospel is indeed that of December 24. Since the end of the fifteenth century this feast is kept on March 19: this day according to a tradition, is the anniversary of his holy death. Veneration of St. Joseph is of relatively recent introduction in the Church’s liturgy. In 1621, Gregory XV extended the feast to the whole Church. In 1870, Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph as protector of the universal Church and instituted a second feast, called his “Patronage” and since 1912 his “Solemnity.” Pope John XXIII added St. Joseph’s name to the Canon of the Mass in 1960, the first addition made to the Canon in over a thousand years.
This saint of “the royal race of David” was a just man (Gospel). As by this marriage with the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph has certain rights over the virginal womb of his spouse, a moral affinity exists between him and Jesus. He exercised over the Child-God a certain paternal authority, which the Preface of St. Joseph delicately alludes to as that of a foster-father. He therefore deserves a special worship.
“Christ and the Virgin were with him at his last hour and watched by him their faces gleaming with sweet serenity.” St. Joseph went to heaven for ever to enjoy the beatific vision of the Word whose humanity he had so long and so closely contemplated on earth. This saint is therefore justly considered the patron of the dying and the model of contemplative souls.
St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of our Lord, faithfully and humbly carried out the difficult and glorious mission entrusted to him by God and thus became the model of domestic virtues and humble daily toil, the guardian of chaste souls and the protector of Christian homes.
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O Saint Joseph, do assist me by thy powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that, having engaged here below your Heavenly power, I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Saint Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.
Mid-Lent or Laetare Sunday is a halting place in the midst of Lenten observance. Therefore, dalmatic and tunicle are worn, the altar is decorated with flowers, the organ is being played at Mass and Vespers even for voluntaries. There are flowers on the altar shelves. Rose vestments (derived from the blessing of the golden rose, which the Pope performs sometimes on that day), instead of violet, may be used.
The liturgy today tells us to rejoice. The texts of the liturgy also tell us to rejoice. Introit, Epistle, Tract, and Communion allude to Jerusalem, on the occasion of the Stational Church—the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. More specifically, the introit tells us, “Rejoice, o Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her. Rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow.” The gradual also tells us, ”I rejoiced, because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord.’” Joy is the theme of the liturgy today. So in order for us to understand this theme, we must understand what joy is. Summarizing St. Thomas’ definition, we can say that joy is that movement of the soul which arises from possessing what is good.
The Gospel tells us of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes, symbols of the Eucharist which we shall receive in our Easter Communion, and the Epistle tells of our deliverance through the sacraments of Baptism and Confession.
The two sons of Abraham (Epistle) symbolize the two Testaments: Ismael, son of Agar, represents the Jews as slaves to the Mosaic law, whilst Isaac, son of Sara, represents the Gentiles whose faith makes them heirs of the promise.
Today we see our Lord in open conflict with Satan, whom He overthrows, disarms, and drives out of a demoniac. This is our Lord’s own explanation which he gave in the form of a parable (Gospel). Satan thought himself secure in his kingdom like the strong man armed guarding the approach to his castle, but the Son of God, stronger than the fallen angel, had come to snatch his unjust conquest from him, and so has acquired us for Himself.
During Lent, which is a time when the struggle against the old man is more intense, we should “live as children of the light, performing actions good, just, and true” (Epistle).
St. Paul is warning us today against sins of the flesh in thought, in word, and in deed. He is warning us not to make anything else our god but God alone. He explains, and he threatens, and in the end he encourages us to give thanks. That’s interesting. Why give thanks as a protection against these sins? Because gratitude requires humility, and humility opens us up to the love of God. Little Thérèse says, “It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God’s grace, for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than he hastens to send us ten additional favors in return.”
The ordinations of the Saturday in Ember Week began in olden days in the evening, and the present Saturday finished on the Sunday morning. When later a new Mass was composed for the Sunday, the same Gospel was kept.
The Gospel relates the meeting on Mount Thabor of the three who gave us the example of a forty days fast: Moses, Elias, and Jesus.
Originally the forty days of penance were counted from the eve of this Sunday to the hour of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday; then began the celebration of the Paschal mystery, to which the forty days were a preparation.
Our Lord also, after His baptism, began to prepare for His public life by a fast of forty days. He was tempted by Satan, who wished to discover whether the son of Mary was in reality the Son of God (Gospel).
He addresses his first attack to the sense of hunger. In the same way he tries, during the forty days, to make us give up our fasting and mortification. This is the concupiscence of the flesh.
Secondly, the tempter tries to induce Jesus to let Himself be carried by the angels through the air. Satan tempts us by pride, which is opposed to the spirit of prayer and meditation on God’s word. This is the pride of life.
Finally, Satan assures Jesus that he will make Him ruler over all created things. In the same way the devil seeks to attach us to temporal goods, when we ought by almsgiving and works of charity to be helping our neighbors. This is the concupiscence of the eyes or avarice.
As we see, in the Gospel today, our Lord is tempted by the devil. Our Lord, having fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert, was hungry and alone. And in this moment of human frailty, the devil came along to tempt Him, coaxing Him to show off His Divine power. The Church by selecting this Gospel passage for the first Sunday of Lent shows once again her motherly concern for our spiritual welfare. During the last four days, since Lent began, we all have been tempted probably more than once to give up our good Lenten resolutions and fall back into sin or back into our usual spiritual mediocrity. Let us all, with the help of God, persevere and stay the course.
On the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, February 22, a plenary indulgence is granted under the usual conditions to the members of the Confraternity of St. Peter. The usual conditions are sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father. For information on how to become a member of the Confraternity, please visit https://www.fssp.org/en/helpus/confraternity-of-saint-peter
To honor the dignity of the “Prince” (Introit) to whom Jesus committed the power of the keys (Collect), the Church instituted the feast of the “Chair of St. Peter1,” which is found in the Roman calendar at this date since the year 336.
As it often falls in Lent, certain churches celebrated it at an earlier date, in January. Hence the two feasts of the Chair of St. Peter, which the Church distinguished by connecting the more ancient one2 on February 22, with the Chair at Antioch and that on January 18 with the Chair of Rome.
1.The cathedra (chair) is the throne established where the bishop resides, hence the name cathedral, given to the church where his seat is placed. Metaphorically, it represents the episcopal authority itself. “The Chair of St. Peter” means therefore, a memory of St. Peter’s episcopate, and his primacy as head of the Church.
2. Rome, until the sixteenth century only celebrated this feast.
Following the example of the Ninivites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, the Church, for the humiliation of our pride and to remind of the sentence of death which we should suffer as the result of sin, today puts ashes on heads saying: “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and into dust thou shalt return.”
It is the remains of an old ceremony. Christians who had committed grave faults were obliged to do public penance. On Ash Wednesday the Bishop blessed the hairshirts which they were to wear during the Forty Days, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms of the previous year. Then, whilst the faithful chanted the Seven Penitential Psalms, “the penitents were turned out of the holy place because of their sins, as Adam, the first man was turned out of paradise on account of his disobedience”. They did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday having won reconciliation by the toil of a forty day’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later on, all Christians, either public or secret penitents, came out of devotion to receive ashes.
The liturgy of today insists on a special way on fasting, the first of the three principal acts of penance.
Please join Catholics around the world today in praying and fasting for peace in Ukraine.
On Quinquagesima Sunday, in the Epistle, the Church places before us the three virtues which we are to work on during the forty days of Lent. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians says, “There are three virtues, faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
The penances which the Church encourages her children to perform during the forty days of Lent, namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, free the soul to believe, to hope, and to love God. It does this because these three penances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving detach us from the things in which we would otherwise put our faith, hope, and love.
At Matins during this week is read the history of Abraham, the “father of true believers”. St. Peter, in whose basilica the Station is held, deserves the same title to a higher degree.
The man born blind, of whom the Gospel tells, is a type of the human race, turned out of Paradise and plunges in the darkness of condemnation.
Jesus, by the merits of His passion, is to open the eyes of men as He did those of the blind man of Jericho, and to give them the light of faith. But faith, of which St. Paul speaks, is as naught without charity (Epistle). The merits of our works, as well as the light which illumines our souls, are in proportion to our charity.
If it is of liturgical origin to grant our souls some relaxation before undertaking the Lenten penance which is imposed on all, let us not forget that the Church condemns all excesses; and for the expiation of such as are committed, let us join in the Forty Hours prayers which Pope Clement XIII (1765) has endowed with many indulgences.
St. Valentine was a holy priest of Rome who was martyred under the Emperor Aurelian in 270. He cooperated in the Savior’s sacrifice and Redemption “by bearing the cross after Him” (Gospel).
Known as the patron saint of couples for his defense of Christian marriage, St. Valentine was martyred by decapitation on February 14. He is the inspiration behind the modern-day celebration of Valentine’s Day.
St. Valentine’s reputation as a patron of couples was not won easily. He lived during one of the most difficult periods of Christian persecution in the early Church. According to most accounts, after a time of imprisonment, he was beaten and then beheaded, likely for his defiance of the emperor’s ban on Roman soldiers marrying.
St. Valentine’s skull can be venerated in the minor basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin near the Circus Maximus in Rome. St. Valentine’s relics were reportedly uncovered during an excavation in Rome in the early 1800s, though it is unclear exactly how his skull came to lie in the Byzantine church where it is found today.
In 1964, Pope Paul VI gave Santa Maria in Cosmedin to the care of the patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is part of the Byzantine Rite.
"Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you: welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice"
~ St. Benedict of Nursia ~