There are numerous and varied celebrations being planned in preparation for welcoming the third millennium. One intriguing activity consists of diving into the sea just on midnight and rising from the waters in the next century.
The reason for these worldwide rejoicings is to mark the passing of two thousand years since the high point of history, that time which marks the passage of years from BC to AD. This turning point is recorded in the first chapter of St Lukeís Gospel and encapsulated in the prayer of the Angelus.
"The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Spirit." When the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women," the young virgin, betrothed to a man named Joseph, was troubled. The angel reassured her with, among other words, "The Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God."
Then Mary, the most exalted of human beings, gave evidence of the sentiment uppermost in her mindóhumility. Whatever exalted heights are reached in any sphere of human activity the gap between Creator and creature is infinite. Mary said "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word."
The prayer of the Angelus continues; ĎAnd the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." The Greek original for "Word" conveys a deeper, richer meaning than the Anglo-Saxon "word". It is more like "concept" or "idea".
St John is the only Evangelist who uses this term "Word", and he uses the expression to designate the Eternal, Divine Person of the Son as the complete reflection, the exact replica of the Father, for He is the Fatherís own knowledge.
For the phrase "dwelt among us" a more precise translation would be "He pitched His tent among us" or "He threw in His lot with us."
This child to be born of Mary was the One the prophets had foretold and who is described in that charming Christmas carol "And at last our eyes shall see Him, in His own redeeming love. For that child so good and gentle, is the Lord of Heaven above." With the sanctification, so to speak, of the treaty between God and man, the angel left Mary.
"Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ." Here we acknowledge the intercessory power of the mother of God. These "promises of Christ" were dearly purchased through the Precious Blood of Christ taken from His motherís veins.
Then follows a prayer which covers the economy of salvation. "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 Christ Our Lord, Amen."
The Angelus is a beautiful prayer giving meaning to the passage of time and hope for eternal life. As blasphemies and irreverences become more common this prayer helps us to focus on the reason for our creation and the means to obtain the rewards purchased by Our Lordís Incarnation, Death and Resurrection.
Patricia Stack is a student at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted May 2000. It was published in Universitas, Vol 3 (1999), No. 1.
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