18 December 2011

18 December - O Adonai; Feast of the Expectation

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Today the Antiphon is "O Adonai", in which we ask the Lord of All to come quickly and save us with His justice [His justice, mind you, not the world's]:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel
Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai,
come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!


Piero della Francesca
This is also the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin’s Delivery of which Dom Prosper Gueranger says, “This Feast… owes its origin to the Bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo, in 656. These Prelates having thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of our Lord, and is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter Time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason, decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn Feast with an Octave, in honour of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of our Lord's Nativity."

Antonio Veneziano
"In course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome, and of those of the whole world, which solemnise the twenty-fifth of March as the day of our Lady's Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the Feast of the eighteenth of December, that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, to celebrate the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the Holy Mother of God during the days immediately preceding her giving him birth. A new Feast was instituted, under the name of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin's Delivery.

The images here come under the heading of Madonna del Parto – the expecting Mother – and from the size of her, it’s going to be any minute now.  In my experience, women in their ninth month have a litany which begins, “Oh God, I am soooo ready to have this kid!” and goes on to look forward to more than one sleeping position, and to a removal of this heavy object constantly pressing on her bladder, and to the opportunity to stand up straight again and not waddle.   Do you not think that Our Lady must have been just as ready at this point?  She, after all, had the Weight of the World resting on her bladder.

15th c. French
“Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire thou hadst to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in thy chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also thine; to come to that blissful hour of his Birth, which will give Glory to God in the highest, and, on earth, Peace to men of good-will. Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy thy desires and ours. Make us redouble our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by thy powerful prayers for us, that when the solemn hour is come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to his entering into our hearts.”

Piero della Francesca, Madonna del Parto, 15th c., Museo della Madonna del Parto, Monterchi

attributed to Antonio Veneziano, Madonna del Parto, c. 1400, Church of San Lorenzo, Montefiesole

15th Century French, The Expectant Madonna with Saint Joseph, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC