March Allocutio 2024

The Incarnation, the Angelus, The Acies

Fr. Paul Churchill, Concilium Spiritual Director

We cannot overlook ever the importance of the Incarnation. It is the great moment of history when God united himself to his Creation and dwelt among men, even among animals, living with a body made from the clay of the earth. The Te Deum of the Church puts it this way, “When you took our nature to save mankind you did not shrink from birth in the virgin’s womb”.

That word “shrink” evokes the following thought in me. It is not easy for us to grasp what this step involved for God. Can I suggest as a possible current image that might scratch the surface of what this meant for God: if someone living a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in the 1st World opted to live in Haiti or Gaza od Sudan. Do I see any hands up in those communities for such a step? What our Lord did, in coming among us to be so shamefully treated as he did, was to do an act even humbler than what a well-off person might do in moving to one of the poorest countries. But to show how committed he was he chose to be born in an animal shed and died on a Cross. As Saint Catherine of Siena commented, only a great love can explain someone taking such a step.

The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in doing his Father’s will, also had the help of the Third Person of the Trinity, The Holy Spirit of love. That Spirit fashioned a place for the Second Person to land and connect. We know her as Mary. As Frank Duff pointed out she is so close to the Holy Spirit of love that, while remaining pure creature, she is the perfect expression of the Holy Spirit In this way the Holy Spirit prepared in Mary the fitting place for the incoming God to have a soft landing and make his dwelling among men. She, by her welcome and love. made him feel at home, assisted of course by St. Joseph.

We celebrate this great event in the prayer we call the Angelus. It is the prayer which commemorates the great event in history, the moment God affirmed his Creation and ourselves. In a way that is what we celebrate at Christmas, God among us. But the moment of sheer genius is the Incarnation, the greatest feat of engineering, the moment of the hypostatic union, when God connected to us and began sharing our journey.

For us lost sheep it has to be our redeeming moment. It gives us the firm anchor of faith and hope that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to us. And the Angelus gives us a chance each day to reflect on it and to thank God for the gift he has offered us. I am not overlooking the death and Resurrection of Christ but they follow on from that first step of Christ entering our world. That “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will” of Hebrews (10:5-10) begins radically in that descent from Heaven by the second Person of the Trinity and continues through his whole mission. And with him in that mission Creation adopts a similar disposition through her who represents Creation and Humanity: “Be it done unto me according to thy word”.

So it is most fitting that we in the Legion also make our great act of commitment on that day, namely the Feast of the Incarnation, or as close to it as makes no difference. The Acies, the great annual ceremony for all legionaries, gives us a chance to be united with Mary in her act of total cooperation with the incoming God. By uniting ourselves to her and identifying as best we can to her fiat, we too open ourselves to the incoming God so that he can take flesh in us. As St. Patrick, whom we celebrate today, would say, “Christ in all eyes that see me, in all ears that hear me, in all hearts that think of me!” The more we offer Mary ourselves the better will all that Christ means become a reality in our world.

“I am all yours my Queen and Mother, and all that I have is yours.” That is the disposition of all in the Legion of Mary. We allow her among us who knows best how to respond to God to take our offering and use it to the glory of God. We go to her because we are, in a way, unworthy to go to God. We wish to imitate as best we can the humility of Mary. We know we have so little. But it is also fitting that we who are sinful members of the Creation should align with her, the sinless one of humanity, who, on all our behalf, said “Yes” to God. She who organized the servants in Cana, can take our offering of water and get her son to change it to finest wine.

So I pray that you will all celebrate the Acies with the best of disposition and intentions. And even if you are aware of your less than perfect hearts, still, offer your service to her the refuge of sinners, because, after all, she is the one who enabled God to come among men and got Our Lord to change water into wine. She can do this for us all. Amen.