This morning after Mass we gathered in the Chapter Hall for "Solemn Chapter" to announce the coming feast of the Annunciation. Above are some photos from Chapter and below is Sr. Mary Martin's sermon. We did record the Verbum Caro responsory and would have shared it with you, but alas, the file got corrupted! You'll have to wait until next year!
What happens at Solemn Chapter for the Annunciation? First, a chantress (this year, Sr. Maria) chants the prologue to St. John's Gospel: In the beginning was the WORD. Then all prostrate, making the venia to ask pardon for our sins. Afterwards, all sit for the sermon which is given by the prioress or a sister delegated by her. After a short period of silence, the responsory Verbum Caro is sung and then Chapter concludes with the collect for the feast of the Annunciation.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40, 34) The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. (Lk 1, 35)
My dear Sisters,
These two passages show God making himself present among men, first in the Old and then in the New Testament. After God revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him the Ten Words of the covenant, Moses built an ark to carry the tablets containing God’s word, and a tabernacle to house the ark. When these had been consecrated, the glory of the Lord overshadowed them and set them apart for divine use. For all the rest of the Old Testament period, the ark and the temple were the place where God was present and active among his chosen people. When the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel had a series of visions in which the mystical ark of God’s presence followed his people into exile, and then prepared the way for them to return again to their land.
This presence of God with his people was brought to perfect fulfillment in the New Testament. After the angel brought God’s message to Mary and she consented to it, the power of the Most High overshadowed her and the Word became flesh. He took up residence in this ark and tabernacle of the new covenant and let her carry God’s Word forth to the world, beginning with her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary, the glorious new ark of the new covenant becomes a type and model of the Church which likewise houses the Word made flesh and carries him forth to the world, as it offers to all the new covenant in his Blood. Throughout the centuries down to our own day the Church continues to be overshadowed by the glory of the Lord, to be the people of the new covenant and to bear Christ to the world. This new ark and temple will never be destroyed; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Indeed, the book of Revelation shows the ark already enthroned in the heavenly temple, which is the Lord God Almighty himself and the Lamb.
Today we are here to render praise in a special way to the Word made flesh who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, took up his dwelling in the ark of Mary’s womb. It is fitting that we, of all God’s people, should give praise to him because in this humble temple of ours we worship day and night Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist and, through the rosary, we honor his glorious mother Mary. This is the best part of our sublime Dominican vocation. Let us give thanks to God for calling us to this wonderful life and for giving us the grace to say “yes” to his call. Now we too are vessels of his grace, overshadowed by his Spirit and empowered to bring Christ to one another and to the world. Let us pray for one another that we not fail in our mission through human weakness or ill-will, but that we continue to say yes to the grace of our vocation, today and every day.