The Whole World Awaits Mary’s Reply: A Meditation for Advent & Christmas

The Annunciation, Caravaggio, 1608 (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a beautiful meditation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux that was in today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (iBreviary). May it be a blessing to you as it was to me.

From a homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot, (died 1153.)

The whole world awaits Mary’s reply.

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 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.

Christmas Gift Idea #12

For my last Christmas gift idea (that is unless I think of something else really cool) I think you should take a look at something from the monks.  In this case the wildly popular Mystic Monk Coffee.  Now, I have to admit it.  I really don’t drink coffee – but I think these Carmelite monks are great and they are building a phenomenal gothic monastery in Wyoming, where the proceeds from this coffee go to.
Not to be outdone are also the monks of Our Lady of Spring Bank Cistercian Abbey and their LaserMonks website.  I have been a customer of theirs and they are fantastic.  You can get ink and toner at a significant discount and help support the monks.  Any money left over goes to charity.  Now, ink and toner are not really “gifty” ideas but they also have other things to buy (like dog biscuits and chocolates) that could make the list.
So support the monks and make someone really happy this Christmas.  Oh, and Happy Advent!

Christmas Gift Idea #11

The Catholic Bible Concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE)
Another great gift idea is a companion to the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) Bible, the translation that most serious Catholic bible scholars use.  The Catholic Bible Concordance would be an excellent reference for Bible study.  A concordance is a verbal  index to the bible.  If you want to look up a specific word in the Bible to find passages, or see where that word occurs throughout, this is the reference for you.  It really makes things easier.  This is the first concordance for the RSV-CE that I know of, and I would love to have one myself.  So, pick one up for your budding bible scholar this Christmas.

Christmas Gift Idea #10

Catholic Bible Dictionary
In my last post I told you about study Bibles, today I want to tell you about a couple of great new books from one of the best Catholic Bible scholars in the world, Scott Hahn.  If your gift recipient likes Dr. Hahn, one of these would really fit the bill.  First is the Catholic Bible Dictionary.  This is a tremendous resource that will really help the owner delve deeply into the Bible.  It’s a dictionary, so you get the idea, but a fantastic one they will use constantly.
Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots
Next is Signs of Life:  40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots.  If you ever wanted to know where we get the Sign of the Cross, or the Sacraments, or why we pray with the saints, or have sacred images or relics, this book is for you – or in this case your giftee.  This book really explores why we Catholics do what we do.  It would be welcome in any faithful Catholic’s library.

Christmas Gift Idea #9

The Navarre Bible - New Testament Expanded Edition
How about getting your loved one a study bible for Christmas?  Here are some great choices:  First the Navarre Bible New Testament, Expanded Edition.  This is an extensive bible commentary using the fantastic, and highly accurate, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE).  It is excellent.  I have many volumes of the Navarre bible and I find them invaluable.  They are highly readable and give excellent trustworthy commentary using quotes from the Church Fathers, John Paul II, great saints and many more.  This volume is the whole New Testament.  It is worth every penny.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament RSV 2nd Edition
Here is another choice.  The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – New Testament, also RSV-CE but the 2nd Catholic Edition which updates some language and has different fonts and typesettings.  This is from world renowned, and very popular, Catholic bible scholar Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch.  This is just an excellent study bible and I would love to have one myself (hint, hint.)
Our next choice is hot off the presses.  The Catholic Scripture Study Bible.  If you know anything about the Catholic Scripture Study program, you know it is excellent and this Bible aims at helping you really study the faith.  It’s got “extensive study materials and reference guides, Holy Land maps, extensive biblical apologetics and topical indexes, all beautifully bound in our Classic Black Bonded Leather with multiple ribbon markers, gold edges and beautiful foil stamped cover.”  There you have it.  This bible is complete, with Old and New Testaments and also uses the RSV-CE translation.  You can even have someone’s name embossed on it to make it more personal and precious.
The New Catholic Answer Bible - Librosario
Finally, we have the Catholic Answer Bible – Librosario version.  This is a complete bible (Old and New Testaments) with great, easy to understand color inserts throughout that explain the Catholic faith.  It uses the ever popular New American Version translation and is really fantastic.  This is the Bible we gave our son for his Confirmation.  It is a quality Bible, bound in leather (which is the Librosario part.)  You can buy this Bible in paperback, but the leather is so luscious, and even has an embossed rosary on the back that you can use for prayer.  This is one you will want to use for years of come.  I really love it and sneak it off the shelf to use myself.

Christmas Gift Idea #8

Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words

Here is another book for your viewing pleasure.  Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words.  This fantastic book lets you read the writings of four great saints of the early Church: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons.  Ignatius of Antioch was a student of St. John the Apostle himself and was the first to use the term “Catholic,” which means universal.

It is fascinating to learn about what the Early Christians thought, and how they worshiped.  This is a really wonderful book and an easy read.  What were the thoughts of the earliest Christians about the Eucharist? Were these people uneducated peasants or highly educated scholars?  How did they live and how did they die?  Get this book for someone special and then borrow it because it will really do something for your faith.

Christmas Gift Idea #7

Every year I try to buy one or two really nice Christmas ornaments.  I prefer porcelain, crystal or silver and not glass because they really don’t last well.  My mother collected lots of those really large Polish glass painted ornaments.  They were beautiful in their day, but they all broke or lost all their paint, and we wound up having to throw them away.  Heartbreaking.

After years of collecting we have a fairly nice collection that we can pass onto our sons and their families some day.  The last few years I have bought some White House Christmas Ornaments and while they are nice and are affordable, I really would like more ornaments that have religious significance.

So, here is my next gift idea. It is from Monastery Greetings and include 3 different beautiful jeweled and cloisonne Orthodox icon Madonna ornaments.  I would love to really have the set, but I will probably just buy one.  I love icons and these are just lovely.

And while you are there, be sure to check out the selection of international beers from monasteries.  There are probably a few people you know who would like to receive that as a gift, and you can support the hard working monks as well.

Christmas Gift Idea #6

So you looked at my last Christmas gift idea, making a rosary (or jewelry) from parts from Gardens of Grace, but you perhaps are not crafty, or want a more inexpensive gift that you can make that would foster the faith.  Making your own knotted rosary would fit the bill. 

I first discovered this when a bible study friend gave our group these knotted rosaries.  We loved them.  I use mine every day.  It is soft and silent.  I can tuck it into my pocket or purse without fear of breakage.  A few years ago, I – who am the least crafty person in my state – decided I would like to make a few for friends and family for Christmas.  And I did it!  It was easy.  I just followed the directions at the Rosary Army website.  Even a kid could do it.  I only needed to buy the cord and some crucifixes to affix to the end.  Once you get the hang of it, which is pretty much when you do the first one, it should take about an hour each rosary.  You can make them while watching TV or commuting on the train or bus.

This is actually a pretty popular idea in some Catholic circles.  You can even buy them. For example, here is a Facebook page for Handmade Cord Knotted Rosary which sells rosaries like the one above.

So where do you get the supplies for this?  First check out the list of suppliers at Rosary Army or look online where you will find places like the RosaryCord website.  You can also find crucifixes at perhaps your local Catholic supply store.  A quick search on the internet for Rosary supplies yielded Rosary Workshop and Rosary Shop.  So look around.  You can make the cord rosaries to the last part and put crucifixes on the lot of them at the end.

You may even want to enclose with the rosary a sheet on How to Pray the Rosary.  This one is English but there is also a Spanish version.

This is a beautiful gift and everyone I have given it to has been very happy to receive it.  I have even been asked to make more.  So try it.  Even if it is not for Christmas, these would make good year round gifts for any occasion.

Christmas Gift Idea #5

Here is one gift idea that would take a little work on your part.  Gardens of Grace has – hands down – the most beautiful rosaries I have ever seen.  One is more beautiful and elegant than the next.  I don’t think they make many rosaries anymore, BUT they have all the parts to make these beautiful works of art.  These rosary parts and beads can be used for jewelry too, of course.

Any rosary, chaplet, paternoster or piece of jewelry you would make from these pieces would be treasured as family heirlooms for decades to come.

Christmas Gift Idea #4

This is definitely something on my wish list for this Christmas – just in case you were wondering what to get me.  The Truth & Life Audio Bible – New Testament is just amazing.  Using the wonderful Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) of the Bible, it has 70 fantastic actors like Michael York and Blair Underwood performing the complete audio of the New Testament.  You can listen to excerpts and see behind the scenes here.

I really thought this would be much more expensive that it is.  Retail is around $50 for 18 CD’s (yes, you read that right) but I have seen it going for about $35.  Such a deal!  Wouldn’t it be great to listen to in the car with the kids?  It really brings the Bible to life.