Vigils Reading – Annunciation of the Lord

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Vigils Reading – Annunciation of the Lord

March 25

On the Annunciation of Saint Mary7

A sermon by St Aelred of Rievaulx

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you… The sacred solemnity of this day ought to be taken up and venerated with the whole of devotion, all enthusiasm and reverence. For this annunciation is the beginning of our salvation. This is the first of all the Blessed Virgin’s feast days in dignity andimportance, rightly more excellent and more fruitful than a sacrament.

Let us celebrate the conception of her who was going to conceive God’s Son, because it has happened today. It is appropriate to celebrate the nativity of her from whom God’s Son was going to be born, because it was announced by the angel today. It is religious to venerate the conception of her who was going to conceive God’s Son, because it has happened today. Let us venerate her purification and the presentation of her son in the temple, because as it happens, they received their cause and origin from the sacrament of this holy annunciation. In the same way, if we attend other feast days of the Lord himself or of his saints, this holy solemnity is the beginning and origin of each one, if we consider it in the right way. For whatever was done today is divine and sacramental. Today the Blessed Virgin consented in order that she should be full of grace. From that fullness, honor and reverence have flowed to all the remaining feast days that the holy church celebrates. Today she conceived God and humankind, and would give birth with the integrity of her virginity unharmed.

This is the mystery hidden from the ages, promised by the prophets, hoped for by the patriarchs, rendered in the end, destined to be beneficial without end. Humans are ignorant of this mystery, wise people wonder, philosophers are astounded, angels venerate, stars speak, demons tremble, kings adore, Herod fears, children testify and proclaim by their death. This mystery transcends nature, goes beyond codes of law, empties every custom, surpasses all understanding… it demands from us only faith and reverence for God, rather than the investigation of human reason or assertion of arguments…

For just as in the first condition the work of the whole Trinity was expressed (where it says, Let us make humankind to our image and likeness), similarly by one and indivisible work of the whole Trinity, the fall of our mortality was repaired and our condition restored. For the Father has sent his Son into the flesh. The Son descended into a woman, the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her…The former came down in divine power, the latter obeys in virgin sincerity. The angel announces lofty realities, the virgin responds in humble ways.

Rightly therefore this feast is raised up for a singular celebration, which enriched the world with a singular benefit of divine compassion. For whatever of grace, whatever of sweetness and of love for her son we reserve in our hearts, this lady experienced wholly today in her praises, so that we love and praise her as much as we can and however we can. But what weakness lacks in possibility, may our devotion supply to a loving purpose. And just as we need her constant influence, so may we venerate her by constant deference, the lady of the universe, the queen of heaven, who took away servitude, restored our freedom, and furnished salvation and life while she brought forth the Savior for us, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God over all the blessed forever

7 Aelred of Rievaulx. The Liturgical Sermons: The Reading-Cluny Collection, 2 of 2 – Sermons 134-182. Trans. Daniel Griggs. Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2022. 169-173.




March 25
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