We praise God for this liturgical season of Advent which gives us the opportunity to prepare our souls with the special graces of this holy time. We seek a deeper reformation of our lives as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who transforms our lives with the grace he won for us by being born of Mary: living, teaching, suffering, dying and being raised to new life for us.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153 A.D.) was an abbot who wrote beautifully of how the Blessed Virgin Mary is part and parcel of this transformation of our lives and world, since all graces that Jesus won flow through her into the Church which continually bring us to a deeper conversion. St. Bernard was a mystic and co-founder of the Knights Templars, and a primary protagonist in the reform of the Benedictine Order by branching off into the Cistercian Order of Religious monks who followed the rule of St. Benedict more closely. The Cistercians reformed by returning to an agricultural way of life and supported themselves through their agriculture developments and hydraulic engineering, among other services to society and the church.
St. Bernard’s homily (in part) In Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mother in light of the Solemnity of the Annunciation which we celebrate March 25, nine months prior to Christmas, the birth of Lord Jesus. “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die.
In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race. Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.
Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all the nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.”