On the Wednesday of Ember Week in Advent, the Mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many Churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning. That Mass is sometimes called the Golden Mass, Roráte Mass or Messias Mass. On that occasion the Church is illuminated as a token that the world was still in darkness when the Light of the world appeared. The Mass is called the Golden Mass possibly because in the Middle Ages the whole of the Mass or at least the initial letters were written in gold, or on account of the golden magnificence of the solemnity or more probably on account of the special, great, “golden” grace which, at that time, is obtained by the numerous prayers. It is called Roráte Mass after the first words of the Introit of the Mass: Roráte Cæli, and Messias Mass because the Church, like Our Lady, expresses on that day her longing for the arrival of the Messias. The Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent is sung.
The solemn fast of the three days in Ember Week originally peculiar to the Roman Church, was afterwards borrowed by the other Latin dioceses. Pope St. Leo I explains the Ember Days saying that especially at the end of the year it is fitting that we dedicate the first fruits to the Divine Providence.
An ancient tradition reserved the ordinations of priests and deacons to the month of December, and the faithful – following a custom introduced by the Apostles themselves- felt constrained to unite with the bishop in prayer and fasting, in order to call down from God an abundance of priestly gifts upon the heads of those newly chosen to minister at the altar.
Formerly, after assembling, the procession of clergy and people, chanting the Litany, went from St. Peter in Vinculis to St. Mary Major by way of the Suburra, the Viminal and the Esquiline, Today’s station- following the custom for Ember Wednesdays – is at St. Mary Major, in order that the new Levites may be placed under the heavenly patronage of her whom the Fathers of the Church sometimes call the “virgin-priest,” in whose temple the Incarnate Word Himself was anointed priest by the divine Paraclete.
Drop down dew, ye Heavens, from above and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Saviour. (Ps. 18: 2) The Heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Drop down dew… etc.
V. Let us kneel.
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the coming solemnity of our redemption may both bring us help for our present life and bestow on us the rewards of everlasting blessedness. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
Lesson Isaias 2: 2-5
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet. In those days, the prophet Isaias said: In the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say: Come and let us go up to the, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people; and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war. O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord our God.
R. Thanks be to God.
Gradual Psalm 23: 7, 3, 4
Lift up your gates. O ye princes: and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and the King of glory shall enter in. V. Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? the innocent in hands, and clean of heart.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Hasten, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and delay not; and bestow upon us the help of Thy heavenly power, that they who trust in Thy goodness may be helped by the consolations of Thy coming. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
Prayer of our Blessed Lady
Let us pray. O God, Who didst will that at the message of an angel Thy word should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary: grant. that we, Thy suppliants, who believe her to be truly the mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with Thee. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
Lesson Isaias 7: 10-15
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet. In those days: the Lord spoke to Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said, I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that He may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
GRADUAL Psalm 144: 18, 21
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him to all that call upon Him in truth. V. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless His holy name.
GOSPEL Luke 1: 26-38
At that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel, being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. Who, having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of His kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel, How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel, answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Isaias 35: 4
Take courage, and fear not: for behold our God will bring the revenge of recompense: He Himself will come and will save us.
May our fasting, we beseech Thee, O Lord be acceptable to Thee, so that by expiation they may make us worthy of Thy grace and bring us to eternal joys according to Thy Promises. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Isaias 7: 14
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son: and His name shall be called Emmanuel.
Filled with the bounty of Thy salvation, O Lord, we humbly beseech Thee, that we may be renewed by the effect of that of which we rejoice to partake. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.