Today (Feb. 11th) is the actual Feast day of the Apparition of the Immaculate Virgin Mary (aka Our Lady of Lourdes). Our Mass on the 13th will be a Votive Mass, joining the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes to Our Lady of Fatima. Aiming to prepare our hearts along with our voices to unite with the prayers, it is good to read through the propers beforehand to gain a sense of how the Church is guiding us through the celebration of this feast day.
You might want to begin with this overview of today’s feast day to obtain an understanding of the origin of the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Along with the historical perspective, it is also worth considering the significance of Our Lady of Lourdes as the patroness of “bodily ills.” While this is not surprising considering the number of miraculous healings associated with her devotion, her patronage is more directly rooted to the meaning of her title, the Immaculate Conception. Through it, we meditate on God’s intent to heal mankind from the fall in the very beginning. Identified as the Protoevangellium (first good news), Our Lord said to the serpent:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.Gen 3:15 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
In this, God “conceived” of the woman in relationship to Christ, her Seed/our Savior. Thus, while we are brought into relationship with Christ through the sacrament of Baptism, Our Lady was relationship to Christ from her very conception in the mind of God. The Blessed Virgin Mary is not simply as a young woman in an isolated point of history, but the woman promised to mankind by God, and of whom Israel had been given special insight through sacred scripture. The Immaculate Conception is not just about the purity of Mary, but rather, it is about the beginning of God healing of mankind’s relationship with Himself . Just how Christ healed the sick to reveal the deeper reality of the forgiveness of sins, the miracles at Lourdes ought to lead us to a deeper trust in the saving love of God. It is a truly beautiful revelation that the Mass helps us to celebrate. With that, let us consider more deeply the prayers we will encounter:
Introit – Apoc. 21:2, Ps. 44:2
I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. v. My heart overflows with a goodly theme; as I sing my ode to the King. Glory be… I saw the holy city…
We begin with the book of Revelation. Meditating on an insight into the life of Heaven that was revealed to a mere peasant girl in 1858, we recognize that the timeless enters into time. What occurred in the past continues to be a heavenly reality in the present. With this Mass in honor of the Apparition of the Immaculate Conception, we witness the beauty and joy that exists in eternal relationship with God.
Collect – O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for Your Son, we humbly beseech You that, recalling the apparition of the same Virgin, we may obtain health for both soul and body. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son…
Lesson – Apoc. 11:19, 12: 1,10 – The temple of God in heaven was opened, and there was seen the ark of His covenant in His temple, and there came flashes of lightning, and peals of thunder, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And I heard a loud voice in haven saying, Now has come the salvation, and the power of the kingdom of our God; and the authority of His Christ.
Gradual – Cant. 2: 12, 10, 14
The flowers appear in our land, the time of pruning has come, the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. v. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff.
God’s plan for salvation begins to take place in Mary’s conception and fiat. In the barrenness of our fallen world, the Blessed Virgin’s hidden relationship with the life-giving Trinity is now revealed to the people of God.
Tract – Judith 15:10, Cant. 4:7
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the honor of our people.
v. You are all beautiful, O Mary, and there is in you no stain of original sin. v. Happy are you, O holy Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise, who with your virgin foot have crushed the serpent’s head.
Judith, a young Jewish widow, liberates her people when she goes behind enemy lines and beheads Holofernes, the general of the Assyrian army. It is not her strength that defeats the enemy, but her total reliance on God. Likewise, it is not man’s own power that defeats the deceiver from the garden, but the humble handmaid of the Lord in in her simple cooperation with God. Thus, through the Tract, we are invited more deeply understand the Gospel by looking towards the foundation prepared by God in Israel, recalling that “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” (St. Augustine)
Gospel – Luke 1: 26-31 – At that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And when the angel had come to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” When she had heard him she was troubled at his word, and kept pondering what manner of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God. Behold, you shall conceive in your womb and shall bring forth a son; and you shall call His name Jesus.”
Offertory – Luke 1:28
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.
Adopting the heavenly perspective, we approach the Blessed Virgin Mary with the words of the angel Gabriel; seeking her intercession as we offer our prayers and sacrifice in the Mass.
Secret – May the sacrifice of praise which we offer You, O Lord, through the merits of the glorious and Immaculate Virgin, be to You as a sweet savor and may it obtain for us the health of sould and body which we desire. Through our Lord…
Communion – Ps 64: 10a
You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have you enriched it.
The subheading for Psalm 64 is “a hymn to the people of the captivity, when they began to get out.” With this verse, we praise Our Lord for freeing us from the slavery of sin. In receiving the Eucharist, our poor spirits are enriched by Our Lord’s own eternal body and blood; the fruit of the Immaculate Conception.
Postcommunion – May the right hand of Your immaculate Mother support us, O Lord, whom You have filled with heavenly good, that by her help we may be found worthy to enter our eternal homeland.
I hope you find this little preparation helpful. I know our focus on singing can sometimes distract us from the content of the prayers, so the more you have already in your heart, the easier it will be to maintain an awareness of the significance of what we are expressing. Please do not forget that you can offer this Mass in prayer for the healing of yourself or a loved one. Thank you for your continued work in preparation. I look forward to praying with you on Thursday.