"Blessed is the fruit of thy womb"

The VerbumQUO for today is "gratia", which in English is the noun "grace". It is taken from today's Gradual, Gospel, and Offertory for today's Double of the First Class Feast of the Annunciation. Gratia is the natural VerbumQUO for it is the salutation that the Archangel Gabriel first announced which confirmed God's favor with Mary, and it is the same angelic salutation we say constantly when praying the Rosary.
Michael Cain
Editor, The Daily Catholic

      This series highlights one word from the Proper of the day's Mass. Taking the Latin Verbum and Quotidianum, which mean respectively "Word" and "Daily", we have coined the word "Verbumquo" by contracting quotidianum to quo and running it together as VerbumQUO for this feature series, thus "The Daily Word," as in the sum of the message, the 'quotient', if you will. It is also our hope that in choosing the Latin word with its meaning and etimology more will be attuned to hearing the word read at the altar and better comprehend the beauty of the Mother tongue. Hopefully in this Time of Passiontide we can gain a higher appreciation and contemplation on how the Daily Proper of the Holy Mass applies in our lives in alignment with the will of Christ and His Blessed Immaculate Mother and His Mystical Bride, His Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    The VerbumQUO for today's Proper of the Greater First Class Feast of the Annunciation is the magnificent word gratia which is, of course, "grace" and was the first salutation spoken to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the heavenly Archangel Gabriel as we see in today's Gospel and Offertory; the Offertory first excerpted from Luke 1: 26-38, specifically 28 and extended beyond to verse 42:
      Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructris ventris tui.
      Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women and blessed in the fruit of thy womb.

    We see here the foundation for the Hail Mary or Ave Maria which we say at least 60 times a day with the Angelus and Holy Rosary. Add several other Hail Mary's daily, including after Low Mass and it reaches into the 70's each day. The origin of this magnificent short, but powerful, prayer comes from today's Gospel of Luke 1: 26-38:

      In illo temporare: In mense autem sexto, missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David, et nomen virginis Maria. Et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit : Ave gratia plena : Dominus tecum : benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus, et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei : Ne timeas Maria, invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum : ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium, et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum : hic erit magnus, et Filius Altissimi vocabitur, et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus : et regnabit in domo Jacob in æternum, et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad angelum : Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco ? Et respondens angelus dixit ei : Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua, et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua : et hic mensis sextus est illi, quæ vocatur sterilis : quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum.
      At that time: And in the sixth month, 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.

    We can see here the foundation of the Angelus and its scripturally based prayer:

      Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.
      (Ave Maria)

      Ecce ancilla Domini, Fiat mihi secundum verbum Tuum.

      (Ave Maria)

      (while genuflecting) EEt Verbum caro factum est, Et habitavit in nobis.

      (Ave Maria)

      Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix, Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

      Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii Tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
      The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.
      (Hail Mary)

      Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

      (Hail Mary)

      (while genuflecting) And the Word was made flesh. And dwelt among us.

      (Hail Mary)

      Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

      Let us pray.
      Pour fourth, we beseech Thee, O Lord. Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

    We can see how the grace bestowed on Mary, originating with her Immaculate Conception, was naturally manifested to her by God through Gabriel's angelic salutation and the fruit of her womb is verified in the Apostle John's first chapter of his Gospel 1: 13, repeated at the end of every Holy Mass when the priest and faithful genuflect at the words ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST. We complete our response in the Angelus before the Oremus, with the words similar to the second part of the Hail Mary. Truly, the Angeles can be called the "Prayer of the Annunciation."

   Thus, the VerbumQUO chosen today, gratia - pronounced GRAH-TSEE-AH - meaning grace. Let us examine Webster's definition:

    "grace" - noun, [From the Latin gratia from gratus beloved, dear.] 1. Favor, kindness, mercy, etc.; also, an act or an exhibition of such favor, etc; as, to sue for grace 2. pl. State of being favored or in favor; as, to be in one's bad graces. 3. A short prayer in which a blessing is asked, or thanks rendered, at a meal. 4. Obs. Lot; fate. 5. Virtue; esp., sense of right; graciousness; as, he had the grace to refuse. 6. [usually cap.] Title given to a duke, duchess, or archbishop, and formerly to the English sovereign. 7. Temporary exemption, as from a penalty, or relief, as by postponement of a settlement; reprieve; as, a day or year of grace. 8. Attractiveness; charm; easy, natural elegance or harmony; beauty of line, movement, etc. 9. A pleasing or charming characteristic, feature, manner, etc. 10. Eccl. a Divine Mercy or forgiveness. b Divine assistance given man for his regeneration of sanctification. c In full state of grace. State of being pleasing to God because of responsiveness to grace; also, state of the elect. d A Christian virtue. Syn. See MERCY. v.t.: GRACED; GRACING. 1. To honor. 2. To endow with grace or graces; adorn; embellish. adj. graceful Displaying grace or beauty in form or action; elegant; also, happily timed or done; tactful. - Adv. gracefully"

    As we can see, 1, 2 and 10 best describe what Holy Mother Church is conveying today on this feast and in her prayers, and the renowned Abbot Dom Gueranger confirms this and more in Volume 5 of The Liturgical Year for the feast of the Annunciation:

    "The blood of the Messias has passed from Adam to Noe; from Sem to Abraham, for Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim; and now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim's Daughter. Mary is the the woman by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate; and has thereby set an irreconciliable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her mother's fall; she is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast; she is to cooperate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over His and our enemy. "

    The Abbot goes on to compare the discourse between Eve and the serpent in paralleling it with the discourse between Mary and the Archangel Gabriel. He points out that through this fullness of grace we are given the second chance at redemption and a startling victory over the devil because of this grace:

       "Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which this day befell satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of His vengeance; the humiliation of satan would not have been great enough; and therefore she who was the first prey of hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph is that Mary is to be superior not only to the rebel angels, but to the whole human race, yea, to all the angels of Heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her; and in Heaven, the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary, and deem themselves honored when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God. Therefore, it is that we, the children of Adam, who have been snatched by Mary's obedience from the power of hell, solemnize this day of the Annunciation."

    The paradox of Eve and Mary is brought home by the holy Doctor of the Church Saint Bernard whom Gueranger shares the saintly Abbot's second Homily with us in his discourse for this feast:

    "Eve was foolish, Mary is wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the Tree of Life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: 'The woman, whom thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the Tree of life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it Thou hast given me life."

    The Prophet David foresaw the fruits of his lineage with the daughter of the House of David in Mary. He emphasizes this is Psalm 44: 3 and 5 of today's Gradual in referring to Our Lady:

      Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis: propterea benedixit te Deus in aeternum. V. Propter veritatem, et mansuetudinem, et justitiam: et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.
      Grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee forever. V. Because of truth and meekness, and justice; and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.

    Since Saint John the Baptist is six months in the womb of Mary's cousin Elizabeth this is really the first event of the New Testament, and in it we still see many of the references to the Old from the account of today's Gospel of Luke. For instance, when Gabriel announces that she is "full of grace", he is confirming God's ultimate favor with her. This is the divine Will expressed to her just as it was the divine Will conveyed to Noe in Genesis 6: 8; to Abraham in Genesis 18: 3; and to Moses in Exodus 33: 13, 16-17. Just as with those Patriarchs of the Old Covenant, so also this chosen Queen of the New was "troubled" but immediately assuaged by Gabriel. Imagine how you'd feel if God asked you something that physically was impossible - conceive a child "without knowing man." Yeah, she had cause to ask, but in her total humility and obedience, she accepted. Her Fiat was the completion of the promises made to Israel for she is the "daughter of Sion" as proclaimed in Sophonias 3: 14: "Give praise, O daughter of Sion: shout, O Israel: be glad, and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem." The Lord's coming is also foretold in conjunction with this passage in the next two verses of Sophonias. a book often forgotten: "The Lord hath taken away thy judgment, He hath turned away thy enemies: the king of Israel, the Lord, is in the midst of thee, thou shalt fear evil no more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, fear not: to Sion, Let not thy hands be weakened. The Lord, thy God, in the midst of thee is mighty, He will save: He will rejoice over thee with gladness, He will be silent in His love, He will be joyful over thee in praise" (Sophonias 15-17).

    Two points are important here in reference to Mary's role in salvation for the Haydock Commentary of the Douay-Rheims Bible documents: "He [Christ] will be thy king. The Jews had no king for a long time. But the true Israel of whom the prophet speaks [the new kingdom of God - His Church] is continually ruled and fed by Jesus Christ, Who imparts his graces abundantly." There we have that word again "grace" as in plural here for God's grace knows no limit. That is why Mary's Fiat is so important in salvation history. You'll note the second point here is the words of the Prophet Sophonias "He is Mighty" and those were the words that embody Mary's Magnificat from Luke 1: 46-55 in which she says "God Who is mighty hath done great things for me". This is actually derived from Psalms 71: 19 and 126: 2 where the Prophet David also used the word "mighty" in describing God and His works. We must remember that Our Lady was schooled in the Old Testament and knew the Psalms so well. That is another reason her holy Rosary is so precious to her because it bridges the Old with the New since the Rosary is patterned after the holy Psalter of 150 Psalms, replaced by the angelic salutation to Mary Ave Maria, gratia plena. Yes, indeed, that is the message of today's feast in announcing the Arrival of the Messias: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

Michael Cain, editor, The Daily Catholic

VerbumQUO for the Feast of the ANNUNCIATION of the Blessed Virgin Mary