Holy Mother Church celebrates today the ancient feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. An innovation in 1854 by Pope Pius IX altered the title and Mass of the feast adding the word “Immaculate”, but primitively and more traditionally the feast is known without it and the Mass below is the original offered for centuries by the Church. Before 1854 the term “Immaculata Conceptio” is nowhere found in the liturgical books, except in the invitatorium of the Votive Office of the Conception. The Greeks, Syrians, etc. call it the Conception of St. Anne (Eullepsis tes hagias kai theoprometoros Annas, “the Conception of St. Anne, the ancestress of God”).
The feast speaks to us, by example of the BVM, of the uniqueness of our individual creation – God’s conception of us in His eternal mind and His purposing us by our physical conception. Just as Our Lady was intended by God from all time to be the vessel and tabernacle of the Incarnate Word, so too are we each purposed by God to play a role in the salvation of mankind.
The Lesson from the book of Proverbs, describes to us allegorically the concept of Our Lady and thus ourselves, being in the mind of God from all eternity. It speaks to us of holy Wisdom too and thus also of the Ruach Elohim – the dynamic creating force of God alluded to by the author of Sirach (24:3) and St John (1:1) ref the Christ, suggesting that we ourselves were breathed into being “The ruach (wind, breath, mind, spirit) of God is in my nostrils” (Job 27:3) i.e. conceptually from God into reality. Bringing to mind the first great O Antiphon “O wisdom that pours forth from the mouth of the Most High”.
The Gospel from the beginning of St. Matthew’s (1:1–17) reminds us of the lineage and humanity of Mary, deliberately by using the disinherited lineage of King David via Jeconiah and Joseph, inferring how it is through Mary’s lineage given in Luke (3:23–38), that Christ is descended from the line of David.
So today’s feast is all about Mary. How she was purposed by God from all eternity for His will as the mother of the Lord and how similarly, each and everyone of us are purposed for His will in our own time and generation. That we in turn may continue to say with Christ “The Spirit of the Lord is on me (conception/baptism), because he has anointed (chrismation/confirmation) me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Because it is through Him, with Him and in Him that we have our being and our salvation, i.e. that we were purposed and have our purpose.
St Melchiades (also known as Miltiades) became Bishop of Rome (pope) in 311 at a moment when profound events were shaking the world and the church. He lived only three years longer, but, although he did not die a martyr, he is included in the list of Roman martyrs. This was probably because he suffered under the fierce persecution of the Emperors Diocletian and Galerius. During that persecution, an earlier Bishop of Rome, Eusebius, was sent into exile. For a few months, there was no Bishop of Rome. It was Melchiades who replaced Eusebius.
Constantine rose to power and put an end to the persecution of the Christians. That is how it came to be that a new age for the church dawned while Melchiades was still pope. One of Constantine’s early acts was to give the Lateran Palace to the popes. This became the center from which the Western church administered its affairs.
Melchiades was in the thick of that administration, because the first major split in the church occurred while he was Bishop of Rome. During the persecutions, some Christians handed over rare pieces of Scriptures to the government’s agents in order to escape torture. This was considered betrayal by other Christians. After the persecution was over, these “weaklings” wanted back in the church.
Some Christians, who had suffered torture rather than give up copies of Scripture, said the failed Christians should only be let back in with severe penalties.
In North Africa, a number of Christians claimed that bishop Caecilian of Carthage had been consecrated by a traitor. Therefore, they argued that he was not a lawful bishop. These North Africans elected a bishop of their own. He soon died and Donatus took his place. The splinter sect that they formed became known as Donatists. The Donatists said they would break away from other Christians if Caecilian was not removed. Constantine asked Melchiades and another bishop to handle the matter. At the request of the Donatists, bishops from Gaul were included in the investigation. (Gaul had not suffered persecution and therefore was considered neutral on the issue of traitors.) Melchiades, the bishops from Gaul and some Italian bishops investigated the situation. They declared Caecilian the legitimate bishop.
Hail, holy Mother, thou who didst bring forth the King who rules heaven and earth for ever and ever. (Ps. 44: 2) My heart hath uttered a good word : I speak my works to the King. v. Glory be…etc
Grant, o Lord, we beseech Thee, to thy servants, the gifts of thy heavenly grace: that as our redemption began in the delivery of the blessed Virgin, so in the solemnity of her conception, we may have an increase of peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen
Commemoration of the Feria of Advent II
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we may attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoration of St Melchiades
Be mindful of our weakness, almighty God, and because the burden of our sins weighs heavily upon us, may the glorious intercession of blessed Melchiades, Your Martyr and Bishop, sustain us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen
EPISTLE Proverbs 8
Lesson from the book of Wisdom. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men. Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.
Blessed and venerable art thou, O Virgin Mary, who without spot wast found the Mother of the Savior. V. O Virgin Mother of God, He, Whom the whole world can not contain, hath shut Himself within thy womb, becoming man. Alleluia, alleluia. V. Happy art thou, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise, for out of thee hath risen the sun of justice, Christ, our God. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 1
Beginning of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias. And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Blessed art thou, O Virgin Mary, who didst bear the Creator of all things; Thou broughtest forth Him Who made thee, yhet for ever remainest a virgin, alleluia.
May the humanity of thy only begotten son, o Lord, succour us, that he (who being born of a virgin, diminished not, but consecrated her virginity), may free us, who celebrate the festival of her conception, from our sins: and render our oblation acceptable to thee. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen
Commemoration of the Feria of Advent II
Be appeased, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the prayers and sacrifices of our humility: and where we lack pleading merits of our own, do Thou, by Thine aid, assist us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
For SS. Melchiadis Pope Martyr
O Lord, graciously accept, through the merits of Your blessed Martyr and Bishop Melchiades, the sacrificial gifts dedicated to You, and grant they may prove to be for us a lasting help. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the BVM
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. That on the Festival of the blessed Virgin Mary, we should praise, bless and proclaim Thee. For she conceived Thine only-begotten Son by the over-shadowing of the Holy Ghost; and losing not the glory of her virginity, gave forth to the world the everlasting light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the Dominions worship it, and the powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the heavenly Hosts, and the blessed Seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With these we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise:
Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the Son of the Eternal Father.
We have received, o Lord, the votive mysteries of this annual celebration; grant, we beseech thee, that they may confer upon us remedies for time and eternity. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen
Commemoration of the Feria of Advent II
Filled with the food of Spiritual nourishment, we humbly entreat Thee, O Lord, that by our partaking of this Mystery, Thou wouldst teach us to despise the things of earth, and to love those of Heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
For S. Melchiadis Pope Martyr
Refreshed by partaking of the sacred gift, we beseech You, O Lord our God, that we may enjoy the benefits of the rite we perform through the intercession of blessed Melchiades, Your Martyr and Bishop. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.