The Angel, divinely inspired, declared who and what the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary is when he said : Hail, thou that art highly favored with a fulness of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women. For surely it was fitting that a fulness of grace should be poured into that Virgin who was to give glory to heaven and the Saviour to the world ; whereby she brought peace to earth, death to sin, law to life, and faith to the Gentiles ; thus making plain before our face the straight and narrow path to perfection. It is well said of her that she is full of grace. To others grace cometh measure by measure. On Mary grace was poured out once, in all fulness. It is well said : Full of grace. We believe that the holy Fathers and Prophets had grace, but they were not full of grace. But into Mary came a fulness of all grace which is in Christ, although it came otherwise than it did to him. Therefore is it said : Blessed art thou among women : that is, Blessed art thou above all women. The fulness of the blessing of Mary utterly neutralized in her any effects of the curse of Eve. As if in praise of her, it is said in the Song of Solomon : Rise up, my dove, my fair one, for the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. And again : come from Lebanon, my spouse ; come, thou shalt be crowned.
Not unfitly is it said : Come from Lebanon. For Lebanon is so named on account of its stainless and glistering whiteness. The earthly Lebanon is white with snow, but the lonely heights of Mary’s holiness are white with purity and grace, brilliantly fair, whiter far than snow, sparkling with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Again it is said : Rise up, my dove. For like a dove, she is clean, and in her is simplicity. Thus she is full of grace and truth, for the heavens dropped down from above, and the skies poured down righteousness upon her. And therefore she is immaculate, because in her hath never been any corruption. She hath compassed a man in her womb, as saith holy Jeremiah, but she conceived not by the will of fallen man. The Lord, saith the Prophet, hath created a new thing in the earth ; a woman shall compass a man. Verily, it is a new thing, a thing of power greater than all other works, when God, (whom the world cannot compass nor carry, and whom no man shall see and live,) entered the hospice of her womb, breaking not the cloister of her virgin flesh. And in her womb he dwelt, the Infinite inclosed within her finiteness.
And from her the Infinite One came forth, so that thereby was fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet Ezekiel : This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. Hence also in the Song of Songs it is said : A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, and orchard with pleasant fruits, with trees of frankincense, and all the chief spices. Verily she was a garden of delights, filled with the perfumes of all flowers and spices, rich with the sweet savour of graces. She was a garden inclosed in such wise that never did Satan enter therein to sully the blossoms. She was a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, yes, sealed with the seal of the Trinity.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:Today let us celebrate with duteous solemnity the Conception of
God's most holy mother, the ever Virgin Mary: * from whom the Son of the Highest went forth, alleluia.
Collect:O merciful God, hear the supplication of thy servants; that we who are gathered
together to honor the conception of the Virgin Mother of God may through her prayers be delivered by thee from the perils which beset us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on Magnificat:All generations shall call me blessed: * for God hath regarded his lowly handmaiden.