How beautiful are thy first steps, O prince’s daughter! (Song of Solomon 7:1) Our eyes are never weary of contemplating in thee the marvel of harmonious sweetness united to the strength of an army. Blessed child, continue to grow in grace; may thy course be prosperous; may thy royalty be strengthened and established. But the Church will not wait till thou be grown up, to sing to thee her beautiful antiphon: Rejoice O Virgin Mary; thou alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world. (First Antiphon of the 3rd Nocturn)
Heresy, Satan’s denial of what God affirms by his Christ, this is the great struggle, or rather the only one, which sums up history. God having created the world for the sole purpose of uniting it to himself by his Word made Flesh; the enemy of God and of the world, in order to break the bond of this mysterious love, attacks by turns the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ the Mediator. But all his lies are in vain: Jesus is man, for he is born of a Mother, like every one of us; he is God, for he alone is born of a Virgin. The Man-God, who, according to Simeon’s prophecy, is a sign of contradiction to the sons of perdition, has himself a sign, for unprejudiced eyes, via: a Virgin-Mother: The Lord himself, said the Prophet, shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel: god with us. (Isaiah 7:14)
In the second of the celebrated conferences held with Manes in 277 by the holy bishop Archelaus, the heresiarch having denied that Christ was born of Mary, Archelaus replied: “If such be the case, if he was not born, then obviously he did not suffer, for to suffer is impossible to one not born. If he did not suffer, no mention can be made of the Cross; do away with the Cross, and Jesus cannot have risen from the dead. But if Jesus be not rise, no one else can rise again; and if there is no resurrection, there can be no judgment. In that case there is no use in keeping the commandments of God: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. (1 Corinthians 15:32) Such is the corollary to thy argument. Confess, on the other hand, that our Lord was born of Mary, and thence will follow the passion, the resurrection, and the judgment; then the whole of Scripture is saved. No, this is no vain question; for, as the whole Law and the Prophets are contained in the two precepts of charity, so all our hope depends on the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin.” (Aeta disputationis Archelai, xlix)
The Church of Milan, which celebrates the most holy Name of Mary on the 11th of September, sings on that day the following beautiful Preface, so perfectly in harmony with the sentiments inspired by this bright Octave.
It is truly meet to give thee thanks, O eternal God. Who didst will that the most Blessed Virgin Mary should be the Mother of thy only begotten Son: for it was not fitting that God’s Mother should be other than a Virgin, nor that a virgin’s Son should be other than God. As, at the Name of Jesus, every knee in heaven, on earth, and in hell, bends before thy divine Majesty: so, on hearing the Name of Mary, the heavens bow down, earth prostrates, hell trembles, confessing thine adorable omnipotence in the Virgin-Mother. And therefore with the Angels.
On the day of the Nativity itself, the Preface in the Ambrosian rite is as follows:
It is truly meet to give thee thanks, O eternal God. For we are celebrating the day of a most illustrious birth, when the most glorious Mother of God, the spotless Virgin Mary, the bright and wonderful star, shone upon the world. It is she who has opened to us again the gate of everlasting life, which Eve had closed in Paradise: and has brought us back from darkness to the joys of the ancient light. Through the same Jesus Christ.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)